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The state of mind of young Malaysians

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  • The Malaysian Youth Mental Health Index 2023 reveals a moderate risk of mental health issues among youth aged 15 to 30.
  • Key contributing factors include the shift in work-life balance priorities and the impact of social media on mental well-being.
  • Recommended interventions include creating supportive environments, promoting healthy lifestyles, and enhancing social support systems.

The mental health of Malaysian youth has become a pressing issue, with recent studies highlighting a moderate risk of mental health problems among this demographic. The Malaysian Youth Mental Health Index 2023 (MyMHI’23), a collaborative effort between the Institute for Youth Research Malaysia (IYRES) and UNICEF Malaysia, provides a detailed snapshot of the mental health landscape for youth aged 15 to 30. This article delves into the findings of MyMHI’23, explores the contributing factors, and discusses potential interventions to improve the mental well-being of Malaysian youth.

Key Findings from MyMHI’23

The MyMHI’23 assessed the mental health of Malaysian youth across seven domains: lifestyle, surrounding environment, personal characteristics, life experience, social support, coping mechanism, and healthy mind. The overall score was 71.91, indicating a moderate risk of mental health issues among Malaysian youth. Notably, the lifestyle domain scored the highest at 88.51, while the surrounding environment domain scored the lowest at 65.45.

The study revealed that 52.7% of youth experience mild anxiety, and 45.3% experience mild depression. Additionally, one in ten youth have suicidal thoughts and plans, highlighting the severity of the mental health crisis. The data underscores the need for targeted interventions to address these issues.

Contributing Factors to Mental Health Issues

Several factors contribute to the mental health challenges faced by Malaysian youth. The traditional mindset of prioritizing career over personal life has shifted among the younger generation, who now seek a better work-life balance. Dr. Lim notes, "The younger generation prioritizes achieving a good work-life balance. They are just more productive in handling things within the working time, compared to the older generations".

Social media also plays a significant role in the mental health of youth. The reliance on social media for social interactions, especially post-pandemic, has led to unrealistic comparisons and feelings of FOMO (fear of missing out). Dr. Lim emphasizes, "For many young people, social media is the most comfortable, and sometimes, the only accessible platform to reach out". This reliance can exacerbate feelings of loneliness and anxiety.

Recommendations for Improvement

To address the mental health crisis among Malaysian youth, MyMHI’23 recommends several interventions at the government, community, and family levels. These include:

Creating Supportive Environments: Less crowded living spaces with adequate facilities can promote a stress-free environment. Increasing youth access to mental health services is also crucial.

Promoting Healthy Lifestyles: Encouraging a healthy diet and physical regimen can improve overall well-being. Schools and communities should promote activities that foster physical and mental health.

Enhancing Social Support: Strengthening family and community support systems can provide youth with the necessary emotional and psychological support. Parents and teachers should be more attentive to the mental health needs of youth.

The mental state of Malaysian youth is a complex issue that requires a multifaceted approach. The findings from MyMHI’23 highlight the moderate risk of mental health problems and the need for targeted interventions. By creating supportive environments, promoting healthy lifestyles, and enhancing social support, we can improve the mental well-being of Malaysian youth and ensure a brighter future for the next generation.

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