PETALING JAYA, March 24 — Depression will be a major mental health illness Malaysians will suffer from by 2020.

Malaysian Psychiatric Association president Prof Dr Nor Zuraida Zainal said this was because more people are expected to experience increased stress due to work and family pressure.

“Most people find it hard to deal with the problems they face at work and cannot handle the stress.

“It is harder when an individual faces problems from family members and do not receive emotional support,” she said yesterday in conjunction with Depression Awareness Day.

“There are higher chances of people keeping their thoughts and emotions to themselves when they do not find a way to vent out their frustrations.”

Research done by the association on the prevalence of depression among Malaysians showed a 50 per cent increase in depressed patients from 2011 to 2015.

The National Health and Morbidity Survey last year indicated 29 per cent of Malaysians had depression and anxiety disorder compared to 12 per cent in 2011.

“The increasing statistics is extremely alarming as it is equivalent to one third of the population,” she said.

Dr Zuraida also warned burnout was a condition that should not be taken lightly as it could lead to depression.

“More often, people ignore their mental conditions as they blame it on stress. Burnout will eventually make an individual feel emotional due to the overwhelming stress,” she said.

Among the tell-tale signs for depression are continuously feeling sad, weight loss, consistently having negative thoughts, insomnia, delusions and alcohol or drug addiction.

She said people who have more than two of the tell-tale signs for more than three weeks are at risk at being “critically burned out” to having depression.

Dr Zuraida said people with depression should not be stigmatised as people experience it at some phase of their lives adding this is what was keeping people from seeking help.

Some of the measures one could take to prevent depression and anxiety is to exercise consistently for four to five weeks, sleep at least eight hours a day and avoid social media platforms such as WhatsApp at least 45 minutes before going to bed.

She said society needs to address the illness and develop preventive strategies and effective programmes in managing the mental well-being of  an individual

“This illness can be cured if a person comes forward and is open to solutions such as counselling,” she said adding medication was prescribed only if a person’s condition worsened.

University Malaya Medical Centre psychiatry department head Prof Dr. Ahmad Hatim Sulaiman said depression and anxiety were treatable if detected early.

He said besides medication, one could also treat the illness with psychotherapy treatment and electroconvulsive treament.

“The treatments for depression has evolved with technology. But these treatments will not be futile if patients are afraid to seek treatment,”he said.