The inaugural International Mental Health Recovery Conference 2019 aims to improve mental health outlook in Malaysia with help from international advocates
“Negative perception towards mental health issues is prevalent among Malaysians, and it stems from people not knowing much about the importance of mental health and mental illnesses. We are here to educate and spread better awareness to the society about mental illnesses and mental health issues. It is and always has been MIASA’s role,” says Anita Abu Bakar.
Anita is the President and Founder of MIASA, the Mental Illness Awareness and Support Association. MIASA has reached a milestone this year in becoming the organiser for the International Mental Health Recovery Conference (IMHRC 2019).
Inaugural effort to speak out
“Our idea for the conference is to have speakers and advocates who are mental health patients themselves from other countries to talk about their success in mental health.”
MIASA actually represents Malaysia as a member of TCI Asia Pacific, an Asian alliance of people who self-identify as people with psychosocial disabilities.
“TCI stands for ‘Transforming Communities for Inclusion of persons with psychosocial disabilities’, and they are IMHRC 2019’s supporting partner because they are the ones to advocate the importance of mental health and education on mental illnesses.”
The main aim for the conference, according to Anita, is to discuss about topics that are essential and necessary for change, but are rarely talked about in Malaysia.
Highlights to discuss
One of the interesting topic to be discussed Anita tells is zero coercion in managing mental illness patients.
“In Malaysia, we are still using involuntary restraining measures to manage patients with mental illnesses. Why? because it is a short cut. When the patients show aggression, we use restraining measures instead of inquiring why the patient was aggressive in the first place.”
Other topics include the gaps in mental health awareness needed to be filled, as well as mental illnesses stigma among healthcare professionals.
One of the more notable speakers that IMHRC 2019 is highlighting is a doctor who was part of the committee that developed the UNCRPD (United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabiities), and what are the difficulties in implementing the UNCRPD in Malaysia.
“We have set the IMHRC 2019 to be a powerful session of discussion about mental health and mental illnesses, as most of the speakers – local and international, have personally dealt with mental health issues and will be sharing their experiences to stakeholders and the public.”
Anita says that there will be an attempt to shift the paradigm for mental health and mental illnesses in Malaysia through the conference, especially among the stakeholders such as the Ministry of Health and healthcare professionals.
“One of the more important part of the conference is the ‘inclusion’ forum, in which we will be addressing mental health issues to relevant stakeholders (doctors, patients, caregiver, and public health representatives) and have them discuss on ways to be more inclusive in supporting and managing mental health issues and mental health illnesses in the country.”
Everyone has a role to play
At the end of the day, Anita tells that the aim for the conference is to let everyone know that they all have a role in mental health. If everyone plays it well, there is a future in recovery.
“In silos, we can achieve certain things. But if we reach out and work together, we can create miracles,” says Anita earnestly. — The Health