Balancing various aspects of life for mental health

Every stage of life has its own set of challenges, and people must learn to balance the different aspects of their life for a healthy mind.

Dato’ Dr Florance Sinniah, Founder and President of Sneham Malaysia, was delivering an online talk on “Mind and Health Matters” organised by WOU’s School of Business & Administration (SBA) on 20 August 2022.

Highlighting the importance of mental health.

She said people get stressed coping with the normal challenges in life, and must learn to balance the different aspects of life for their wellbeing. Those whose mind is stressed may “not feel rested, relationships will suffer (e.g. say hurtful things) and it affects appetite, sleep, energy levels, ability to think clearly or make decisions, physical health, and the joy in living,” she added.

She elaborated that a healthy mind can manage thoughts, feelings and behaviour, enjoy life, have adequate rest and sleep, socialise and maintain good relationships, perform daily activities, work productively and contribute to the community, cope with change and uncertainties, and achieve goals and potential.

Dr Florance founded Sneham, a non-profit organisation, to help prevent suicide.

She said work, relationships and the environment can promote the wellbeing of the mind, or alternatively trigger problems. The early warning signs of an unhealthy mind include quarrel, disputes and fights with family and friends, unable to focus or think properly, overeating or not eating, consider harming oneself, feeling helpless and hopeless, and extreme mood changes.

Dr Florance listed several factors that can affect mental health, such as childhood abuse, trauma or neglect, social isolation/loneliness, and experiencing discrimination and stigma. Other causes are social disadvantage, poverty or debt; loss of a loved one; severe or long-term stress (e.g. huge demand on your personal time); long-term physical illness; unemployment or job loss; homelessness; being a long-term carer; drug and alcohol misuse; domestic violence; bullying, abuse or significant trauma as an adult; life- threatening incident; victim of a violent crime; and physical conditions (e.g. head injury).

Healthy mind encompasses emotional, psychological and social wellbeing.

She cited WHO statistics that 1 in 4 people suffer from some form of mental illness, or over 1.5 billion people, but less than 1% seeks treatment. Mental illnesses include anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, suicidal tendencies and other behavioural and emotional difficulties.

She pointed out that mental illness is not always visible as they may seem happy and yet have negative thoughts. “Bad comments like ‘toughen up’, ‘no one said life would be easy’ or ‘others have it worse than you’ invalidate a person’s struggle with mental health, and make them feel worse than they already do. They just want to upload whatever is troubling them,” she said.

Actor Robin Williams tragically died by suicide.

She shared that 800, 000 people die globally by suicide every year, i.e. 1 death every 40 seconds, according to WHO. “Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in 15-19-year-olds.” In Malaysia, PDRM recorded 1,708 suicides from Jan 2019 to May 2021, of which 51% were 15 -18 year olds.

Dr Florance said an awareness of how they feel, acceptance, and active changes will help people deal with mental health issues. “Recognise why you are feeling this way, the cause (e.g. breakup), and how to respond. Accepting will allow you to tolerate painful and negative feelings, past losses, and distressing situations in a measured and mindful way. Active changes, what can you do. Increase your engagement with things, other people, and the world even if your first instinct is to withdraw. Seek help from a loved one, self-help, or a combination of support systems and resources.”

Helpful tips to maintain your mental health.

She provided the following advice for maintaining a healthy mind: Connect with others; stay positive; do physical activity; help others; get proper sleep; surround yourself with good people (not toxic); and set realistic goals.

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