29 Jul 2019

Ground Floor

Mental health has always been shrouded in stigma giving the Asian community in particular, very little space to express themselves when they need help. To impress upon the ideals of community support and expression through art, SEGi College Subang Jaya brought together Malaysians of all ages for an art activation project that promotes proactive mental health education and rallies community support to break stigmas on mental health.

Inspired by the global non-profit mental health outreach organisation known as Hope For The Day (HFTD), the HOPE Mural and Kindness Rocks Project had students, young children, parents and the Subang Jaya community gathering to paint a message of hope and kindness in a bid to initiate a campaign that will continuously spread positive messages to raise awareness on mental health problems, challenges and solutions.

Launched by Subang Jaya ADUN, Yang Berhormat Puan Michelle Ng Mei Sze, the project commenced a week ago with the participation of SEGi College Subang Jaya and local artist Shafiq Wazer who led the way with graffiti art painting at the college premise. This was followed by mural art and rock painting activities led by Nancy Bartosz, Founder of Hope Travels, an outreach initiative by HFTD, at Da Men Mall, on July 27.

“Instead of one-off charitable projects, we should think about long term projects that are impactful such as this,” said Ng who added that the government is also looking at long-term impacts like insurance policies and review of the laws that criminalise suicide attempts.

“We need insurance for mental illness. There is a very simple reason why insurance is needed. Yes, cost of getting treatment is expensive is one but at the same time our public hospitals are also overloaded. On the other hand, there are also private hospitals that have ventured into providing very good mental health care. With health insurance, you automatically solve the issue of cost, offload pressure from public hospitals and divert some to private hospitals,” said Ng at who also took part in the mural painting to mark her support for mental health awareness.

Poor mental health has been identified as a major cause of depression, anxiety, stress and a range of other social and health problems. The World Health Organization classifies mental disorders as a combination of abnormal thoughts, perceptions, emotions, behaviour, and relationships that could range from various types of psychoses to intellectual and developmental disabilities.

In recent times, depression, anxiety and addictions have also been categorised as mental health issues and countless studies have been revealing an alarming rise in the number of sufferers over the years. In some countries, studies indicate that the sufferers are as young as five.

The International Journal of Academic Research in Business & Social Sciences recently published a paper titled Issues and Challenges of Mental Health in Malaysia which indicates that approximately 4.2 million Malaysians suffer from mental health disorders. According to the National Health and Morbidity Survey, conducted by Ministry of Health (MOH), there was a higher prevalence among adolescents aged between 16 and 19 (34.7%) followed by 32% of young adults aged 20-24 and 30% youths aged 25-29.

“I first met Nancy Bartosz in early June when she was at SEGi College Subang Jaya to talk to our students on safeguarding the mental health of young children. I was inspired by her work on the hope-themed murals that she did with some communities such as in Kampala, Uganda and the idea to do the same here at our college came naturally. Through the Hope Mural project, we hope to see our students proactively connecting with the community to create mental health awareness. We are also thankful that Da Men, without hesitation, offered us their walls for the community hope mural,” said Carolyn Choo, Head of Academics, SEGi College Subang Jaya.

“By involving our surrounding community and with a strong network of corporate, commercial and social organisations, SEGi can make a positive impact on our students and contribute to the society by raising awareness on proper mental health care. Suicide rates are climbing, and it should be acknowledged that many mental health sufferers are not getting the right love and support from their families, friends and community.”

“Most of the time, this is because they are unable to express themselves or are ashamed to seek for help. As a learning institution, we have always prioritised the needs of the society and this project is just another milestone for us as agents of transformation,” added Choo.

Joining hands with SEGi on this project are HFTD, HANKidz Academy and Da Men Mall who did their bit to rally participants, volunteers as well as sponsor painting materials for the project while spreading messages of positivity and hope via digital media.

“As a Hope Travels Agent of Impact, I have observed many cultures and traditions. One common concern is centred on mental health. Very few communities promote proactive strategies to manage mental health challenges, so those affected may be suffering in silence,” said Bartosz who is also an educator by profession.

“Our hope is to bring the importance of mental health conversations to the forefront by teaching mental health basics and encouraging people to understand, ‘It’s OK Not to Be OK.’ By encouraging self-expression, we will bring communities together so those suffering from mental health issues are not afraid to ask for help,” added Bartosz.

To date, HFTD’s Hope Travels initiative has been represented in 26 countries and 17 languages.

Meanwhile, project partners Da Men said, they are committed to being more than a shopping destination.

“We are also dedicated to the promotion of positive mental health by creating spaces where people feel welcomed and inspired. In support of this campaign, the mall will also be having an art bazaar with charity booths of handmade arts and crafts and food to reach out to shoppers,” said Katy Teo, Marketing Manager, Kuala Lumpur Pavilion Sdn Bhd.

Justin Tan, General Manager of KCC Paint Malaysia said: “We strongly believe that colours can help generate emotions which will help improve moods and reduce stress in today’s challenging environments. We are trying to harness the use of colours in urban designs to promote good mental health.”

SEGi College Subang Jaya has been proactively promoting both physical and mental health awareness programmes and have collaborated with various parties, to sensitise students and staff about the importance of a healthy and balanced lifestyle.