Malaysian Youth Mental Health and Well-Being Survey By Dr Teoh Hsien-Jin Woo Pei Jun Cheong Sau Kuan Department of Psychology School of Health & Natural Sciences Sunway University College Introduction and Literature Review The rates of mental health problems amongst Malaysian teenagers have been noted to be quite high. At present the percentage of emotional problems is 49% and aggressiveness is 41%. These findings were highlighted by the Ministry of Health's Healthy Life-Style Campaign National Mental Health Survey in 2000. Recently, the Ministry of Youth and Sports set up the National Institute for Youth Research (i.e., Institut Penyelidikan Belia Nasional). The aim of the Institute would involve advising the Minister of Youth and Sports about Youth policies. Data provides a rationale and basis for the implementation of National policies, and it is thus envisaged that having a large body of data which informs of the current trends of youth attitudes, life-styles and well-being would be a necessity. Given the concerns with the rates of mental health problems amongst youth, this study was requested by the Minister of Youth and Sports to get a general overview, not just into the mental health status of Malaysian youth, but also into their lifestyles. This report begin with a literature review that examines some of the know findings about various aspects of youth lifestyle that are covered in the study. In addition to mental health, the review covers such topics as social support, substance abuse, sexual behaviours, pet ownership, bullying and family conflict. All these topics have been found to have some impact on youth mental health, and inform the reader about youth lifestyles. The report next provides some information on the methodological aspects of the study pertaining to subjects, sampling, measurement instruments and data collection procedures. The results are presented in the form of a series of tables that document the prevalence of various youth attitudes and behaviours. Finally, the report concludes with a summary of the major findings of this study, plus some suggestions for policy changes. Mental Health Measures of young people's mental health vary from study to study. Some researchers see mental health as encompassing a combination of outcomes such as the youth's self-concept, reading ability and life skills (Amato & Ochiltree, 1987). Other researchers have chosen academic indicators of performance such as reading, mathematical ability and behavioral problems (Cherlin et al., 1991; Svanum, Bringle & McLaughlin, 1982). Anxiety, depression and delinquency which are indicators of mental health problems have been used (Kalter, 1977, Pedro-Carrol, Cowen, Hightower & Guare, 1986). Finally,
others also consider anti-social behaviours such as sexual problems and drug involvement to be indicators of youth adjustment (Gibson, 1969). There are also some researchers that offer a less symptomatic definition of mental health. Offer and Sabshin (1984) described four primary definitions of mental health. These include: • mental health as the empirical profile of the statistically average adolescent or the majority of adolescents • mental health as optimal functioning of the "ideal" adolescent • mental health as the absence of clinically diagnosed disorders or symptoms • mental health as a result of a changing system of time and culture. "Positive" aspects of mental health or healthy personalities are those who "continue to grow, develop, and mature through life, accepting responsibilities, finding fulfillments, without paying too high a cost personally or socially, as they participate in maintaining the social order and carrying on our culture". (Frank, 1953). Jahoda (1955) notes that a mentally healthy person is one who perceives the world and himself correctly, independent of his personal needs. To ensure positive mental health, there are several basic features that have been identified: • The person displays active...
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