In light of local model and actress Alicia Amin’s hospitalisation following a failed suicide attempt, it’s time to review the state and stigma of mental health issues in Malaysia. The Malaysian attitude towards mental health is unforgiving, with much stigma attached towards the connotation towards it being a genuine illness due to the lack of understanding and often, physical symptoms.

Looking at the statistics from MINDA, close to 800,000 people worldwide die from suicide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Suicide is the second leading cause of death amongst those aged 15 – 29 year olds globally. It should be acknowledged that suicide is often a last resort for those who feel that there is no other way out.

Suicide is often not done out of a desire to kill themselves, but rather to stop the pain. A lot of pain is internalized in Malaysia, considering that emotional distress is brushed aside or made into a joke. Mental health is still something that people are reluctant to talk about, or to seek help for.

Of course, the downside of making mental illness a more mainstream topic to talk about is those who romanticize it. The Malaysian Insight points a finger towards the Tumblr campaign Post It Forward and how that system has been abused. This of course, leads to those actually suffering not being taken seriously. But let’s look closer to home.

In Malaysia, those suffering are usually regarded as lacking faith and encouraged to utilize faith- or religion-based solutions to rectify the situation. This often leaves victims feeling even more isolated than they already do. The word suicide is brushed off as a cry for attention, when really it’s a cry for help. It’s important to note that no one specific type of person is susceptible to mental illness, and really – some of us are more high-functioning than others.

Among the youth, treatment is usually regarded as expensive, thus unattainable. A private clinic can price initial sessions up to RM400, whereas a government hospital is RM30. Those suffering from an older generation are adamant to repress or deny said illnesses, while youth without a support system to rely on are told to ‘man up’ or stop being weak. It’s obvious that we have a problem.

Lazada Malaysia

Alicia herself has expressed her 2018 wish is to move forward instead of focusing on her failed suicide attempt, but as usual – Malaysian netizens haven’t been too kind.

This attitude isn’t exclusive to Malaysia. Following up on the recent case of Logan Paul’s video in Aokigahara – the forest at the base of Japan’s Mt. Fuji, often referred to as the suicide forest for its popularity among those wanting to end their lives – it is appalling at how these issues are trivialized as a joke, or used as clickbait-shock factor type gimmicks to generate viewership.

Mental health issues cannot be used as a method to monetise content, nor can it be scapegoated as a tactic to deflect unwanted negative comments. In Malaysia, the ugly side of society is rearing its head again and we’re barely through the first month of the new year. When will we learn?