Mental Health Q&A In The Era Of COVID-19

Mental Health Q&A In The Era Of COVID-19


Dr. Ravi is a psychiatrist, mental health advocate and suicide prevention researcher in North Sarawak. Affiliated with the Ministry of Health Malaysia, LAMAN MINDA and Suicide Prevention Research Malaysia (SUPREMA). Dr.Ravi addressed a few questions that were asked during the Clinical Updates of COVID-19 webinar on the 28th May 2020. 

Q1: Hi, how to manage our mental health as a student. As some of us might stress due to the online distance learning.

I think good self-care is a start. As a student, days might suddenly seem empty as the routine of going to classes; the initial feeling of a holiday will pass into the realization that one is stuck at home and not able to do usual activities like hobbies etc. It is important when online learning is taken into account:

  1. A healthy schedule with breaks
  2. Keeping in touch with social connections using technology
  3. Taking care of basic needs
  4. Being realistic of expectations i.e. avenues to ask questions

There should be also an avenue to express difficulties to the course provider especially if there is no compatible device or internet.

Q2: We r afraid of not being able to cope up academically. Failed to sustain the willpower & discipline which we have it in school. Any suggestions to deal with this?

Timetable and a designated study space without distractions might help. Regular breaks like school can also be of assistance.

Q3: Students' mental health has significantly worsened during the coronavirus pandemic, what say you?

Early research from China has indicated this. Student populations have unique risk factors before the pandemic with familial, educational and social stressors. The pandemic may rob them of their coping mechanisms especially support from friends, hobbies and school structure. It may increase isolation and disconnectedness. Measures of improving connectivity in healthy ways through online and supportive living circumstances might help.

Q4: What's good advice to give to students that have a problematic household but at the same time needs to do online distance learning?

Get help. Abuse is not to be tolerated. Using helplines like Talian Kasih 15999 to get advice on how further to act is helpful.

Q5: What if it appears that our leader is "not understanding" of the team’s mental struggle and not supportive? It's a struggle to be motivated, to work. What can we do?

It is important to find out what is the reason behind this. Is the person struggling themselves or unaware of the situation? Depending on the reason and it can be a mix of both. There are measures can be taken. 

Regular psychosocial support from facility providers or external providers can be helpful (if it is available) to help people cope. Another thing is to convey the grievance in a constructive way to the leader especially collectively. If these measures are sensitively taken into account and a two communication is established, both parties might come to a consensus. A common difficulty is also team members may not be aware or are not sufficiently communicated of the reasons of certain decisions. Misinformation and miscommunication is often precipitant of misunderstandings.

In situations were sufficient effort has been taken to approach the leader and appears to be fruitless, speaking to the person’s supervisor or who they are answerable too is the next step. Be mindful that communication is respectful and constructive vs malice. Written communication helps as well.

On a personal note as a team member, do adopt self-care practices and use the necessary assistants that are available

I am not sure about the published data on this area but there might be still in the stage of data collection/ analysis.

Q6: May I know if the psychiatrist/clinical psychologist/counsellors in hospitals provide regular support to those isolated COVID-19 cases? Any experience sharing?

Within the structure of the MHPSS, the answer is yes. 

Depending on the case load, needs and resources, the support offered may vary. Most of the time, individuals may be approached through online methods or to fill up a self-reported questionnaire. Support is mainly contactless in view of infection control procedures. People may face different degrees of difficulties often facing with isolation where boredom, loss of income, inability to complete responsibilities and lack of leisure sets in. Supporting clients would be addressing their needs which may include counselling, activities in ward etc.

Q7: Have we conducted survey amongst our trainee doctors, including fellows in training, medical officers on the impact of COVID-19 on their training?

I am not sure about the published data on this area, but there might be some,probably in the stage of data collection/analysis.

For mental health support and help, it depends on location. You can get all the crisis helplines on this website (click here). 

Here is a picture by I-Life Suicide Prevention Campaign which as made during the time of MCO.

Organizations like MIASA and MINDAKAMI generally do have support groups and you could approach them: and

If you would like to find out more about Dr.Ravi's presentation and the "Clinical Updates in COVID-19" webinar on 28th May 2020, please click here.