Despite efforts by several local organizations to uphold the legitimacy of mental health, it’s hard to say for sure if we can already call our society one that has done enough to protect and care for the psychological well-being of its people, as testified not just by the ways everyday people like you and me jokingly talk about emotions and in the ways we talk about who (psycho)therapy is for, but by the number of suicide cases that peaked especially during the global COVID-19 pandemic  and the general cluelessness of the public when it comes to knowing what to do to make things better for themselves or others who seem to require a professional assessment of their mental health status, even when the alarming truth is that 1 in 3 Malaysians experience mental health struggles .
With more and more Malaysians now reaching out for help in the form of crisis calls , you’d think that the work of destigmatizing our inborn right to thrive would be over. You’d think that the concept of mental well-being would by now receive the serious attention it deserves. You’d think that more Malaysians would know by now that they can also see counselors and clinical psychologists, not just psychiatrists at hospitals. Indeed, the increase in number of crisis calls reflect a dire need for some kind of solution to the emotional pain, stress, anxiety, and depression Malaysians face silently (after all, a lot has to have happened in order for things to worsen into the crisis stage of things). Right now, we are in need of a collective awakening that recognizes the importance of mental health.
Being in line with what Malaysians need, at Drona Wellness, we believe in mental health as the solution. Pick whichever terminology you will: emotional wellness, mental well-being, psychological well-being, mental stability— but the truth is that until we embrace mental health as part of our basic wellness, we will remain in a state of cluelessness the moment things happen to us, wondering what’s wrong with ourselves and our lives (or for some, what’s wrong with other people), ultimately lacking the opportunity to turn suffering into growth, without all the helpful concepts and tools that would only be within reach when we honor our collective mental health.
In other words, some of the costs of not normalizing reaching out when we’re in emotional pain is that we remain in a state of confusion, hopelessness, frustration, helplessness, and stagnation that only further intensifies any feelings of low self-esteem and isolation [4, 5]. The following are three more reasons to normalize reaching out:
1—Emotions are at the core of being human
All humans evolved to experience emotions, and emotions give us information about what we’re thinking and needing . Unfortunately, due to emotional neglect and invalidation, many of us have learned to ignore what we’re feeling inside, thereby losing the wonderful opportunity of being able to understand what we need in order to thrive, what may be missing in our lives, what we believe in, what we want, what we are trying to move towards, what makes us us, and even what others need from us [7, 8].
The fact of the matter is that such insightful information goes to waste every time a person in emotional distress hesitates to reach out just because they think doing so is not the norm: Not only does their suffering worsen— they also lose the chance to learn and benefit from their emotions, ultimately losing themselves to their repressed emotions.
2—Our interactions with others get affected
When emotional distress isn’t being attended to or dealt with due to stigma, it becomes difficult for us to engage with and respond to other people’s emotions, our emotional detachment essentially ruining our relationships in the long run . The more detached we are from our own uncomfortable emotions, the more emotionally unavailable we become and the less affection we express to others .
As a result, we end up letting our pain stop us from being warm and generous with others, even if we never intended to come off as cold and rejecting in the first place. In other words, by not normalizing mental health services such as therapy, we end up letting our pain affect our relationships with others.
3—Impaired functioning, eventually
Finally, when our emotional pain in response to any life stressor exceeds our ability to cope, we will struggle to do what we’re meant to do in life, such as going to work and enjoying the company of family and friends (unless we normalize getting help, of course). Moreover, when this happens to more and more people, entire communities stop thriving, be it socially or economically.
On a related note, that’s the reason why work-life balance is essential— it ensures we take the time to care for ourselves, which will help us be more resilient in the face of everyday stress.
For now, it would help for us Malaysians to focus on reaching out to as many people as we can to convince them that emotional pain can be a normal part of the human experience— that all that matters is that one gets help— but the catch is that in order to get help, one must reach out. However, people refrain from reaching out for help when they feel afraid and ashamed to. In addition, people need information… ignorance isn’t always bliss!
In this case, the cost of ignoring the reality of the importance of mental health and wellness is chronic, long-term emotional distress that not only affects our self-esteem, relationships, and productivity, but determines our quality of life and our risk factor for developing a mental health disorder.
To reach out, visit any nearby clinics (klinik kesihatan) and obtain a referral to a psychiatrist, clinical psychologist, or counselor at a hospital. Alternatively, you can book a session with a mental health professional.
In addition, consider joining our community of mental health responders and advocates. Not only will you gain confidence in talking about mental health— you’ll also learn how to approach and support someone showing signs of poor mental health, know where to get help & support, implement strategies to maintain your own mental health, and receive practical tips that you can use and pass on to friends, family, colleagues, and team mates. If you’d like someone to give a talk to help improve the personal development of the people at your organization, keynote speaking to normalize help-seeking behavior is also available.
 Coping With Trauma: Hope Through Understanding, Dr. Jon G Allen (book)
 Gunther, R. (2020, December 31). The Danger of Emotional Detachment. Psychology Today.
Written by :
Lifelong Learner and Mental Health Counselor
Alumni of Boston University, USA, and University of Malaya, Malaysia