Covid-19 has been dominating the headlines since its outbreak started in late 2019. Presently, it is still taking a toll in majority of the countries around the world including Malaysia. The physical impact of the pandemic is well-documented by Ministry of Health as the main source of health information in Malaysia. News column and social media are full by the number of cases and mortalities. However, the impact of the pandemic on mental health is rarely featured in these platforms.
During the early phase of Covid-19 outbreak, Malaysia underwent their first Movement Control Order (MCO), which came as a sudden hit on different aspects of Malaysian’s life especially social and economic part. Being restricted to social isolation have negatively affected many people’s mental health and created new challenges for people with existing mental illness and substance use disorders. Fear, anxiety and depression were among complaints reported during the MCO. Financial difficulties were also affecting a proportion of the population. These burden had created an unhealthy condition for mental health.
Authority has reported 266 people have committed suicide during the first MCO from March 18 to October 30, last year. 1 The suicide cases were reported to be caused by debt, family problems and marriage problems. In a local study conducted during the pandemic, reports of depressive (59.2%), anxiety (55.1%) and stress (30.6%) symptoms were found to be high.2 People with poor health status, students, females and people with poor financial conditions were found to be more vulnerable to mental health symptoms.
The impact of Covid-19 among Malaysia is a real health concern. Interventions should be taken to provide a proper solution to the affected individuals or communities. Some initiatives such as telehealth, suicide decriminalisation movement, awareness campaigns are excellent progress, however, more holistic approaches are still needed to curb the increasing trend. These require supports from every level within government agencies, non-profitable organization and community.
- Daily Express. 266 commit suicide during movement restrictions (one everyday). 16 Nov 2020. Available at: https://www.dailyexpress.com.my/news/161783/266-commit-suicide-during-movement-restrictions-one-everyday-/
- Li PW et al. PLoS One. 2021 Mar 25;16(3):e0248916.