JANUARY 26 — With mental health services being more affordable and easily accessible online, it gets me thinking why they can’t just be routine, like hair cuts and dental check-ups.

Online, the DASS test, a simple means of self-reporting that helps users gauge their current state of depression, anxiety and stress, is a good starting point before seeing a therapist.

The test isn’t meant to be a replacement for a session but at the very least gives you something to discuss. 

I did laugh at my results that were consistent throughout the pandemic — moderate depression, severe to extreme anxiety and low levels of stress. 

It’s probably the default state of many people in the pandemic, emotionally affected whether they realise it or not, anxious about the threat of Covid-19 but stress levels? They will probably differ.

Being able to work at home and choose my level of social engagement (little to none) means I am less stressed than most people right now. 

The pandemic has at least made mental health conversations more commonplace and perhaps one day, people will be able to speak about it as casually as you would a sore tooth.

As it is, local insurance providers are still reluctant to provide mental health coverage and the most affordable route for mental health treatment, public hospitals, aren’t the easiest option for most people.

A man works from home during phase three of the movement control order in Shah Alam April 15, 2020. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
A man works from home during phase three of the movement control order in Shah Alam April 15, 2020. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

Employers should probably also stop asking for medical certificates for sick days or have at least one or two “no questions asked” days where they can choose not to come in.

That would be one stopgap measure until the stigma about mental illness is no longer an issue, nor used as a basis of discrimination at the workplace or hiring.

Mental health issues aren’t just the ones made into TV shows but they afflict anyone for various reasons.

Postpartum depression is one common instance that needs more attention with many mothers still dealing with the fallout years after giving birth.

The strain of living in modern society also takes a toll — I know way too many people who quit their supposed “dream jobs” due to the physical and mental toll on their wellbeing.

We shouldn’t be dying to make a living.

The government is also taking way too long to decriminalise suicide. It should have happened far earlier in the pandemic especially as mental health deteriorated for many people during the lockdowns.

Mental health matters. Protecting and assisting those who need mental healthcare should also be a priority.

As a country we still haven’t really gotten around to grieving the people we lost, too caught up in the ridiculous revolving door soap opera of our political scene.

We need more mental health resources, education as well as making them accessible for all people, and not just for those who can afford paying hundreds of ringgit per hour for therapy and even more on medication.

Healthy bodies and healthy minds should not just be goals, they should be fundamental rights. 

What isn’t a fundamental right? Politicians have easily hurt feelings so let’s say yes to mental health and no to politicians who can’t take well-deserved insults. 

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.