Fighting the MHI Stigma

The first rule of Fight Club is to not talk about Fight Club.

It is probably why mental health illness (MHI) was addressed in the classic movie mentioned above. The stigma attached to MHI is the very reason why we do not have enough people openly sharing on their mental health such as someone with a physical incapacity; a broken leg or a heart problem.

The stigma proves to be an issue because awareness is important to address the crux of the issue which can stem from several factors. Malaysia Mental Health Association (MMHA) President Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj said the national morbidity survey of 2015 showed 29.2% had some form of MHI, belonging to Malaysians aged 16 and above.

Research and past studies have shown that the factors attributing to MHI are of physical, social, environmental and psychological causes.


An individual’s genetic makeup plays a role as the interaction between multiple genes may contribute to the occurrence of MHI. As genetic expression is unique in everyone, a person may merely be susceptible to the MHI but not necessarily acquire it. Stress, an abusive or traumatic event can trigger the susceptible individual in developing the MHI. The use of intoxicants, otherwise known as substance abuse, also increases the chance of an individual acquiring MHI. Substance abuse when taking place in the long term has been associated with anxiety, depression and feelings of paranoia. Poor nutrition in the form of deficiencies of vitamins and minerals rank in as a contributing factor too. Brain injury can lead to a change in personality and there are cases where symptoms of MHI is triggered.


Coming from a dysfunctional family, a tragic occurrence such as a death or a divorce and bereavements such as being entrenched from work can trigger MHI risks in people. Having to change schools can be a stressful experience and this too is worth taking account of. A person leading a life of isolation or living in poverty puts a toll on mental health. Being unemployed in an economic crisis or in the same vein, being stressed at work are factors to be taken into consideration. Socio-cultural expectations such as having only thinness accepted as the beauty standard, can cause MHI.


With the understanding that everyone is unique, what can break someone is possible to have no effect on another. Hence, resilience differs among individuals. The nature in which a person has dealt with traumatic experiences in the past or in present times has a strong influence on a person’s emotional and mental health. These traumatic experiences can occur in the form of abuse, bereavement or divorce. Other forms of psychological stressors are physical or sexual abuse, the loss of a loved one, neglect and being unable to relate with others.

Having understood the factors that contribute to MHI, it is recommended to contact the Befrienders should any trigger arise. The Befrienders KL can be contacted via telephone (03-7957 1306) or via e-mail,

There are cumulatively 8 centres around the country which forms a coalition known as the National Council of Befrienders Malaysia (NCOBM). Befrienders are multiracial, non-religious affiliated and are available to everyone. Factors such as race, religion, age, gender or sexual orientation are irrelevant when seeking for help from the Befrienders.

All the volunteers are trained, and each conversation is strictly confidential.

You may remain completely anonymous, keeping your name private to further assure of confidentiality and to maintain privacy.

The first rule of Fight Club is to not talk about Fight Club but in this arena of fighting the stigma of MHI, let us do talk about it with open minds and hearts to show our respect towards humanity.

Related: How Do I Know I Need Mental Help?

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