BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The Ministry of Health’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services  is seeing patients as young as 14 years old being diagnosed with depression and anxiety.

Every year, 40 new cases are being referred to the department, clinical psychologist Norsyahmun Matassan said on the sidelines of a mental health forum on Wednesday.

This, she said, is consistent with World Health Organization’s report showing half of all mental illnesses start at the age of 14, with vast numbers remaining undiagnosed and untreated.

“Depression and anxiety, which are the top two most diagnosed mental health problems in Brunei, also affect adolescents,” said Norsyahmun.

While data collected in previous years showed that adults in their early 20s were the most vulnerable to mental health problems, more recent data shows that this is no longer the case.

“Perhaps because there is greater awareness now, parents are no longer shying away from bringing their children [to seek help]. That is why we are seeing patients as young as 14 coming out saying that they have mental health issues,” she added.

A member of the audience asks a question to the panelists of the forum on youth and mental health, organised in conjunction with World Mental Health Day on October 10. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

Youth who are overworked, stressed and unemployed, as well as those with a history of substance abuse, are “high risk” candidates for mental illness, the psychologist said.

For adolescents, depression and anxiety may stem from a number of factors, such as stress due to high expectations from parents, lack of communication between parents and their children and anxiety caused by social media.

“This can lead to heightened comparison of themselves to others… [resulting in] low self esteem and feeling rejected. There are also no boundaries in terms of spreading hurtful things,” Norsyahmun said.

Betwen 2005 to 2016, the Ministry of Health recorded 600 consultations for child and adolescent mental health services at RIPAS Hospital

“Parents or guardians can go to their nearest health centre to talk to a doctor saying that you have concerns about your child showing behavioral changes,” Norsyahmun added. “The doctor will refer you to a psychologist.”

Members of the public can also seek help by going to the walk-in psychology clinics at RIPAS Hospital or the Community Psychology Division in Anggerek Desa, Jalan Berakas.