BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – A total of 1,515 Bruneians were diagnosed with anxiety disorders in 2021, with more than 900 also experiencing depression, according to the Ministry of Health (MoH).

Last year calls to Talian Harapan 145, MoH’s mental health helpline, jumped during the onset of the Delta-fueled outbreak, with the helpline receiving 1,058 calls from August to September of 2021, compared to a monthly average of 445 calls in 2020.

In a message to mark World Mental Health Day on October 10, Health Minister Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham Hj Jaafar highlighted the “profound” impact the pandemic has had on mental health.

“Around the world, access to all routine health services including mental health services has been affected and severely limited during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Brunei Darussalam is no exception… the pandemic has caused a gap between the needs and the provision of services due to the COVID-19 restrictions put in place,” he said.

He added that in the coming weeks MoH will launch the country’s first ever Mental Health Action Plan to address the gaps in provision of mental health services.

According to 2020 statistics, around 7,000 people in Brunei were being treated for mental illnesses.

The theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day is “Make Mental Health and Well-Being a Global Priority for All”.

The minister said greater attention is also needed to address mental health in the workplace, which requires organisational intervention such as management strategies to mitigate stress and foster caring work environments.

The World Health Organization and the International Labor Organization estimate that a total of 12 billion working days are lost every year due to depression and anxiety in the workplace, causing global economic losses of around USD$1 trillion.