Covid-19 and Mental Health in Malaysia

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.

References:

  1. 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-/
  2. Li PW et al. PLoS One. 2021 Mar 25;16(3):e0248916.

Vitamin C and Immune System

Immune system is defined as complex network of cells, tissues, organs, and substances that helps the body fights infections caused by a range of pathogen, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. Development of a good immune system is essential and requires a healthy diet and lifestyle. One of the micronutrients that have been long associated with strong immune system is vitamin C.

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, can be easily obtained from consumption of citrus fruits, such as oranges and orange juice, peppers, strawberries, blackcurrants, broccoli, brussels sprouts and potatoes.1 Vitamin C is one of the essential vitamins – vitamins that cannot be synthesized by human. It has multiple roles in our body systems which include:

  • Boosting immune system
  • Helps in collagen formation
  • Helps to maintain capillaries, bones and teeth
  • Aids in the absorption of iron
  • Act as antioxidant
  • Helps in wound healing.

Lack of vitamin C may lead to poor wound healing, weakened collagenous structure and impaired immunity.2 Individuals with vitamin C deficiencies are more vulnerable to more severe infections.3

Vitamin C acts as a support for various cell functions of both innate and adaptive immune system. One of the functions is to promote anti-oxidant activity of skin, resulted in prevention of oxidative stress induced by environmental pollutants. Through collagen formation, vitamin C is also responsible for development of healthy skin which act as the first barrier against any external pathogen. Its role in wound healing also play a vital function in preventing infection from entering the body.

Vitamin C was reported to accumulate in phagocytic cells, such as neutrophils which will assist in process of engulfing microbes. Furthermore, vitamin C also helps in automated cell death process which will clear used neutrophils from the site of infection. This will result in decreasing necrosis and potential tissue damage.

Sufficient vitamin C is essential for each one of us as it is one of important micronutrients that our body needs to ensure good health. A healthy diet with fruits and vegetables rich with vitamin C is sufficient for required vitamin C intake. For individuals with vitamin C deficiency, supplement intake may help to improve the vitamin C level.

References:

  1. Recommended Nutrients Intakes for Malaysia, A Report of the Technical Working Group on Nutritional Guidelines, MOH, 2017
  2. Carr AC & Maggini S. Nutrients. 2017 Nov; 9(11): 1211.
  3. Hemilä H. Nutrients. 2017 Mar 29;9(4):339

 

 

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