Technology has its plus and minus points, says Brunei's LegCo member

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN (Borneo Bulletin/ANN) - The expanding use of online technologies, while undoubtedly bring many benefits, can also bring additional pressures, said Legislative Council (LegCo) member Yang Berhormat Iswandy bin Ahmad.

“As connectivity to virtual networks at any time of the day and night grows, young people living in situations such as these are particularly vulnerable to mental distress and illness,” he said. 

He made these comments during the launching of the Mental Health Roadshow held by the Mental Health Initiative and Drive (MhIND) Project at Laksamana College of Business (LCB) yesterday.

“Much can be done to help build mental resilience from an early age to help prevent mental distress and illness among adolescents and young adults, and to manage and recover from mental illness,” he added. “Prevention begins with being aware of and understanding the early warning signs and symptoms of mental illness.”

Yang Berhormat Iswandy added that in the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the third goal is ‘Good Health and Well-Being’ where the world aims to reduce the number of people suffering from mental illness by one-third by 2030.

He said the Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020 of the World Health Organization (WHO), endorsed by the World Health Assembly in 2013, recognises the essential role of mental health in achieving health for all people, which include four major objectives - more effective leadership and governance for mental health; the provision of comprehensive, integrated mental health and social care services in community-based settings; the implementation of strategies for promotion and prevention; and strengthened information systems, evidence and research.

“In addition to support from health-care services, people with mental illness require social support and care,” said Yang Berhormat Iswandy. “They often need help in accessing educational programmes which fit their needs, and in finding employment and housing which enable them to live and be active in their local communities.”

Speaking on the youth, specifically in Brunei, the LegCo member said the definition of youth according to the Brunei National Youth Policy is aged between 15 to 40 where the statistic record from the Department of Economic Planning and Development (JPKE) in 2015 showed about 184,600 individuals or 44 per cent of the whole population in Brunei Darussalam in that category.

Yang Berhormat Iswandy said the early years of adulthood are a time of life when changes occur where for many, these are exciting times, but can also be times of stress and apprehension for others, where in some cases these feelings can lead to mental illness if not recognised and managed.

The LegCo member also believes that parents and teachers can help build life skills of children and adolescents to help them cope with everyday challenges at home and at school. 

Psychosocial support can be provided in schools and other community settings and of course training for health workers to enable them to detect and manage mental health disorders can be put in place, improved or expanded, he said.

Yang Berhormat Iswandy said that investment by the authorities and the involvement of the social, health and education sectors in comprehensive, integrated, evidence-based programmes for the mental health of young people is essential.

“This investment should be linked to programmes to raise awareness among adolescents and young adults of ways to look after their mental health and to help peers, parents and teachers know how to support their friends, children and students,” he said.

The LegCo member lauded the organisers for taking a proactive approach about mental health issue, and hoped the initiative will continue to grow beyond the programme and to further benefit others too.