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Teachers, students face stress

TIME BOMBS: Keep your eyes open for the mentally sick in our midst

A NEW test will be introduced for applicants to teachers' training colleges, the Education Ministry announced on Monday.

The assessment will gauge whether they have the mental resilience to be teachers in today's fast-paced, everything-now world.

Will they continue to have both oars in the water when under extreme pressure and emotional distress?

Students these days are, after all, capable of driving anyone, even the most serene embodiments of control, over the edge.

Being ignored and heckled, or worse, attacked, assaulted and having your car set on fire do that to people.

Educators have spoken of fellow teachers who clamber over the school fence to get into school and talk to themselves. One carried a basket to school every day and filled it up with stray kittens found along the way.

But it's not just teachers that ought to be assessed. Students should be, too.

Last Saturday, a Form Five student hanged himself with his school tie at his home in Kampar.

Several days earlier, a student, believed to be suffering from stress after having to re-sit six exam papers, fell to her death from the 10th floor of a flat in Tanjung Bungah in Penang.

There have been many other suicides and suicide attempts involving students over the years.

A study not too long ago found five per cent of students to be "severely depressed".

Students exhibited a high level of stress not only during the examination period, but also throughout the year.

The number of children and teenagers seeking psychiatric treatment to deal with a range of mental disorders is on the rise.

Some patients are as young as 5. The reason -- the pressures and complexities of modern living.

Something more should be done to ease their problems, aside from the breathing exercises, prayers and sports activities proposed by a former health minister.

A more lucid suggestion involved the setting up of child psychology units in schools. The travails faced by the young these days have clearly become too complicated for school counsellors.

They are more evolved than their predecessors, having been exposed to cable television, YouTube and Miley Cyrus.

Those in authority to handle them need to be armed with the requisite skills to understand why they behave the way they do and determine what needs to be done.

Others that need to be on mental health watch are mothers and fathers, especially those saddled with debt and trying to eke out a living in an apathetic and inhospitable city.

The burden of childcare, finances and unsupportive spouses has caused some to spiral into depression with devastating consequences -- there is always a direct correlation between child neglect and abuse, and a sick mind.

This is a matter of concern as there have been a number of child abuse cases recently, the latest involving a 5-year-old girl who died last week after being allegedly abused by her mother.

There are also those who opine that most of the social media population are of unsound mind, going by their posts on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and elsewhere.

There are the attention seekers whose misplaced bravado had sparked a maelstrom of controversy within and outside the country. Exhibitionism, according to the Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders, is an illness.

According to a Canadian mental health expert, taking lots of pictures of food can indicate health or mental problems, too. That would make most of us mentally ill.

But, ultimately, those afflicted with mental illness need not necessarily fit neatly in the aforementioned categories. Based on recent statistics, 1.35 million Malaysians suffer from mental health-related problems, including schizophrenia, mood effective disorders and mood defensive disorders.

Cases of former mental patients, or even those still institutionalised, running amok and inflicting grievous bodily harm on others are not new. Some have even killed -- their victims the unfortunate souls who just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

While we wait for the establishment of more mental health clinics and other intervention programmes, we can do our part by keeping our ears out and eyes open for those mentally sick in our midst. If the one that is on the verge of emotional combustion is you, don't be leery about coming forward to seek treatment.



Chok Suat Ling sling@nst.com.my is New Sunday Times editor. New Straits Times Columnists 05 September 2013
Tags: stress, students, teachers
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