Survey of Malaysians Under Lockdown Unveils Useful Mental Health Indicators Behind Unassuming Habits

Shah Alam, 12 October 2021 – In conjunction with World Mental Health Day commemorated annually on 10 October, Gardenia Bakeries KL Sdn Bhd (Gardenia KL), in collaboration with the Mental Illness Awareness and Support Association (MIASA), is keeping the conversation about mental health alive, especially within families at home.

“Malaysia has come a long way in raising awareness about mental health and more still needs to be done. The pandemic has become a magnifier of mental health challenges in the community and Gardenia believes on-going conversation is greatly needed to help navigate the new normal. Being a brand that cares for the community, Gardenia KL started this effort by first getting a sense of how Malaysians were coping within the lockdown through a survey run by our social community partner, Cilisos Media. The findings were helpful in identifying mental health red flags most of us tend to miss. With our partners from MIASA, Gardenia intends to keep the conversation going in the hopes of cultivating greater action towards mental wellness,” explained Gardenia KL General Manager, Corporate Affairs and Public Relations, Hazlinah Harun.

According to mental health activist and MIASA President and Founder, Anita Abu Bakar, “It is wonderful to see many parties coming together to empower the community and support each other in these trying times. Mental health has been neglected far too long. When this pandemic hit, many were impacted psychologically and emotionally. Through this collaboration, we hope to strengthen our unity and the solidarity of Malaysians, emphasizing the importance of #kitajagakita with no one left behind. Indeed, when we work in silos, we can get things done, but when we work together, we can create miracles.”

The survey drew in responses from Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Johor, Penang and Negeri Sembilan, with a total of 1,029 respondents ranging in age from 17 to 60 years and above. The respondents comprised a mix of single individuals, single parents, married couples, with and without children.

Probed about the consequences of working and learning from home due to movement restrictions, respondents dished about reactions to various lifestyle changes. These included mealtimes, stress management, parenting styles, sleep patterns, exercise, as well as time and space management.

A revelation worth noting from the survey was 67.1% of respondents admitted that the Movement Control Oder (MCO) had a profound effect on their mental health. The challenges respondents cited ranged from having to pivot to remotely working or learning from home, included mental fatigue, anxiety or depression, and frequent agitation. Sadly, 5% of respondents admitted to having contemplated suicide, with 2.4% of these admitting to acts of self-harm.

If you are or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, please reach out to MIASA via www.miasa.org.my which offers mental health assessment and consultation, counselling services, spiritual therapy, therapeutic assessment, psychological services, peer support. Alternatively, contact the MIASA 24-hour helpline at 1-800-820-066.

Celebrity mental health activist and Patron of MIASA, Che Puan Sarimah Ibrahim, said, “It is absolutely crucial that we, as a society, are able to pick up on the signs and symptoms of a mental health concern to prevent it from becoming a mental health illness. I believe that education on mental health as a whole is the only key to achieving this nationwide. A healthy and productive nation is one that has its physical and mental health prioritised and cared for.”

When it came to eating schedules, about two-thirds (63%) of respondents said they ate whenever they felt like it, with approximately one-third (37%) saying they ate at proper meal time. It was worth noting, 3.7% said they went on a diet due to financial constraints;  a majority of respondents coming from the east coast states of Pahang and Kelantan.

Respondents who acknowledged having some form of mental illness with no access to medication cited having the least amount of sleep during the MCO, which was 31 minutes less than the average of six hours. The restrictions correlated with an increase in isolation among respondents with 24.8% saying they did not interact with anyone outside their household for more than three days, and 12.2% not interacting with anyone at all for more than three days.

Additionally, 16.6% of respondents admitted to wearing the same clothes for three days or more. 4.43% of respondents admitted to leaving the dishes unwashed, while 14.5% said they ignored cleaning up their room or house until it was noticeably unkempt. These were earmarked as possible red flags by mental health experts who observed similar loss of interest in nearly all activities most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks. Long periods of experiencing a depressed mood or irritability were also notable changes to observe when gauging mental wellness.

A noteworthy trend picked up through the survey was the correlation between shared homes and mental health.  Those living with their nuclear families tended to experience less mental health issues compared to other groups. For example, those living with their children and spouses were 23% less likely to report having emotional breakdowns or feeling anxious and depressed. They were also 40% less likely to report contemplating suicide, and 62% less likely to report inflicting acts of self-harm. Respondents who were living alone were found to be 25% more likely to develop anxiety and depression compared to the average Malaysian and were 69% more likely to have contemplated suicide.

Findings from the Gardenia ‘Wellness Begins at Home’ Survey were discussed over a live forum hosted on @GardeniaKL’s Facebook with celebrity mental health activist and Patron of MIASA, Che Puan Sarimah Ibrahim; mental health activist and MIASA President, Anita Abu Bakar; and Gardenia KL, Corporate Affairs and Public Relations General Manager, Hazlinah Harun.

Gardenia KL continues to stand in support of the nation as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Early last year the company allocated RM1 million for its Gardenia Covid-19 Aid Programme in response to the impact of the Movement Control Order on B40 households. Todate, the Gardenia Covid-19 Aid Programme has completed distribution of aid under its RM1 million allocation. The initiative has benefitted the Food Bank Programme, B40 households and front liners including delivery riders and taxi drivers serving the community with critical services since last March 2020.

 Visit @GardeniaKL’s Facebook to catch the Gardenia ‘Wellness Begins at Home’ discussion with mental health activists from MIASA.

 For additional Gardenia ‘Wellness Begins at Home’ Survey findings: https://bit.ly/GardeniaWellnessBeginsAtHome


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