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Malaysian teens need to get fit for the sake of their mental health

The teenage years are full of opportunities, but this phase is also made up of vulnerabilities.

The Adolescent Health Survey 2022 by the Ministry of Health reported that a third of teenagers in the country are overweight or obese, with four in five being physically inactive, and two-thirds, sedentary. This means most teenagers are at risk of conditions associated with inactivity and overnutrition, including cognitive function and mental health issues.

It’s no surprise that the same survey found that one in four teenagers feels depressed – with girls twice as likely than boys to feel so. What’s alarming is that suicide thoughts and attempts in teens have increased by 3% from the previous National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) in 2017. Similarly, girls are doubly likely to report suicidality than boys.

Such findings are consistent with global research evidence indicating that late teens and emerging adults are most at risk of being affected by poor psychological conditions. School-related stress, as well as individuation and transitional issues, contribute significantly to poor mental health.

While the developing teenage brain can adapt and learn to establish cognitive and behavioural skills that are important for mental well-being, it’s also vulnerable to unhelpful coping methods in addressing mental stress, including excessive screen time which can expose them to unsuitable and potentially dangerous content, binge-eating, smoking and negative self-talk, among others.

It’s important to note that more than 50% of people with lifetime diagnoses of mental disorders had psychological problems since mid-adolescence.

Help at source

Can mental health professionals help? Yes.

Do we have enough mental health professionals to address this issue? No, we don’t. Even if we do, issues of stigma and sense of shame in seeing one is enough to discourage many from seeking help. Furthermore, seeking professional help for psychological conditions can

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