Unemployment rates, business losses, school dropouts are all quantifiable impacts of the pandemic. However, there are unquantifiable impacts the nation is facing and these impacts may be fatal if go unnoticed.
We must not underestimate the impact that the pandemic has had on the nation’s mental health. People are hard pressed financially, socially and emotionally. Multiple lockdowns and staggering Covid-19 numbers have caused a considerable amount of fear, worry and concern among members of the public.
When the numbers show, they often represent lives lost.
UNICEF recently released the final issue of the ‘Families on Edge’ report in May 2021 and it brought to light several mental health struggles low-income families faced during the pandemic. While many of us believe that people are slowly adapting to the ‘new normal, these numbers reveal the underlying reality that others are facing.
Heads Of Households Are Clouded With Worry
According to the report, 60% of those affected by the MCO in March 2021 stated that they do not have enough money to buy food for their families. This number has almost doubled since the start of the pandemic.
The top two worries of heads of households of urban B40s are about their financial situation and their ability to feed their family (44%) and their concern over their children’s education in light of the pandemic (44%).
The situation for female-led households is similar with 50% of them worried about their ability to provide food for their children and 39% of female heads of households expressed worry over their children’s education.
How Are Low-Income Families Fairing In Mental Health?
When asked to describe their mental state, 19% of the total HoH said that they felt depressed. While this number was significantly lower compared to the 30% reported in December 2020, this still posed a major issue as 1 in 5 heads of households are depressed.
Among female heads of households, 22% said that they were depressed as of March 2021 in contrast to the 38% previously reported in December 2020.
Children from lower-income families are not exempted from the stresses of the pandemic.
On the other hand, 1 in 4 parents said that their children are experiencing internet and social media addiction while 1 in 5 reported that their children have problems sleeping.
Who Can Offer Support In Times Of Need
As a whole, the government recognizes the importance of addressing mental illness and has allocated RM24 million under Budget 2021 in an effort to bring better healthcare services to Malaysians. While this may seem like a step in the right direction, it is not enough as the urban poor need more attention given the living situation they are subjected to.
A good way to address this issue is for community members to look out for each other. There are organisations that do not charge an arm and their mission is to offer mental health intervention and support to those from low-income groups. SOLS Health and the Malaysian Mental Health Association (MMHA) offer affordable counselling sessions for just RM50 per session. These changemakers could also use a helping hand in the form of volunteers and donations that would increase the quality of their services.
We all have a part to play in strengthening the morale of our community and nation. Never stop looking out for each other – the neighbour across the road or family staying alone. Here’s an extensive list of NGOs working tirelessly to improve mental wellness at affordable prices.