[Brunei] Open Space #1: Mental Health and Employability
The mental health problem in Brunei Darussalam is an issue that cannot be taken lightly. According to the latest statement from the Ministry of Health of Brunei, approximately 7000 individuals or around 1.5 percent of the country's population are currently diagnosed with mental illness, with depression being one of the most common findings. However, this figure could be just the tip of the iceberg because it does not reflect the real situation, especially for the youth.
On October 26, 2020,18 participants at the Brunei Darussalam Youth Open Space exchanged ideas to analyze this problem via Zoom meeting. The forum focused on discussing the obstacles that deterred people with mental illness from getting treatment. It was concluded that the first challenge faced by the youth was the stigma, most of the time it came from the closest circle. Several participants shared about how many parents still consider mental health problems shameful. Instead of becoming a source of solutions, parental figures act as a source of stress. This situation was made clear in a survey conducted in the middle of the event. All participants voted out parental figures as the place to seek help regarding mental health.
It is also difficult for students to get treatment from their educational institutions. The problems lie in the incapability of the assigned school counselors, the vagueness of informed consent, and the discrimination by the school authority upon students with mental illness. One participant shared his story of the time when he could not represent his university for an event because he was considered not mentally fit by the university Dean.
The participant also showed concerns about workplace stress without adequate treatment facilities provided by the company. The Brunei government has actually opened a Suicide Prevention Hotline named Talian Harapan. Nevertheless, the hotline is considered insufficient because it is only available until 11 pm, while many mental crises such as suicide attempts happen past midnight. The participants also raise a problem regarding public transportation in Brunei which turns out to affect the accessibility of mental health institutions.
After discussing the challenge in treating mental illness, the participant proposes several action plans. Surah Azlan took it a step further by conducting a plan to initiate a special hotline that will respond to student mental health problems. The forum also demanded better public transportation and increasing the capacity of counselors to improve access to a mental health institutions.
Here are some highlights from the session
“There are few amongst the people that I know, they want to seek help, but they don’t want to expose themselves to their family and friends. Brunei does not have public transport that is easily accessible, so these kids (the teenagers) are asking where to go? How to go? So they tend to just keep to themselves or they tell someone that they know they can trust.”
"I have been denied an opportunity to represent my university because the Dean got a hold of my mental health diagnosis record and decided that I was not fit to represent the university, although I met all the criteria and have tons of ECAs and CCAs experiences."
“I remember I wanted to attend a scout gathering because I want to meet my socialize needs to keep me happy, belong, and be occupied. But instead they would respond with "beramal ibadah inda bagi ketenangan kah?" (doing worship will help you find peace) which was awful.”