Malaysian and Indonesian students hold dialogue on mental health

By Siti Fatimah Azzahra

GOMBAK, 20 October 2021: In conjunction with Grand Mental Health Month, International Islamic University Student Union (IIUMSU) in collaboration with Counselling and Career Service Centre (CCSC) conducted ‘A Youth Mental Health Dialogue’ on the theme “Youth and Resilience”. 

The speakers are student leaders from universities in Malaysia and Indonesia with different background and expertise to garner a wider perspective on mental health Issues. The dialogue was moderated by Zaim Nur of IIUMSU who is also a law student. 

The guest speakers were Wan Muhammad Zuhir bin Ghazali, Secretary of Finance, Universiti Malaya Student Union (UMSU); Asa Ismia Bunga Aisyahrani, General Secretary of International Student Society Indonesia in Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM); Nadia binti Ahmad Fuzai, Exco of Special Task and Infrastructure, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Student Union (UKMSU); Atha Mahdi Muhammad, Treasurer in Centre For Mawarith Studies Univerisitas Darussalam (UNIDA) Gontor.

As the COVID-19 pandemic situation in regards to mental health issues among students is rising, the dialogue focused on the current situation in universities today and how the management handles mental health issues among students.

In the first round, Bunga explained that during her time when she was the head student of organisation at Pondok Modern Darussalam Gontor, she had around 4,000 members and she was one of the 200 committee members. Despite the big number of members in the community, they still take the initiative to monitor students daily.

Atha Mahdi also added that their Pesantren in UNIDA is managed by a system where there are accompaniments for students to refer even when there is any personal issue. Plus, activities in the pesantren are monitored by the management to keep an eye closer to their students.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, the initiative has been further enhanced where the higher ups are concerned especially regarding the rising mental health issue among students.

Wan Muhammad Zuhir of UMSU insisted that the collection of data on students is important to combat this issue.

IIUM has run a few surveys on students’ mental health and one of them is the initiative by IIUMSU to help and guide students who are struggling during this pandemic and have had trouble balancing academic with mental health.

It is agreed that data collection is important to get a bigger picture of this issue, understand the situation better, and for careful preparation and solution for everyone, hence meeting the objectives and rationale of this 10th installation of the  IIUM Grand Mental Health Month series.

“When we talk about student leaders, it’s not about serving a few students but tens of thousands of students,” said Wan Muhammad Zuhir.

“It’s a big responsibility and trust to uphold and take care of the students’ welfare.

From students to students, their focus is to deliver the needs and concerns of students to the management.”

Wan Muhammad Zuhir added that University of Malaya and most universities do not have a policy to combat mental health crises. Thus, they took their own initiative to establish Mental Health Task Force after 16 suicide attempts were discovered last semester. 

This Mental Health Task Force aims to solve problems such as data collection of students who have mental health issues.

Wan Muhammad Zuhir said that a tool for measuring students’ mental health at the end of semester is needed following this pandemic.

Most universities have student feedback surveys at the end of the semester but there are no surveys to measure mental health yet such as Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS-21).

From that, it was felt that the university’s management can plan and decide on how to improve the situation and what to provide for the students. For example, a talk or a discussion on mental health and how to take care of themselves during difficult times.

The panelists shared that news and incidents, such as suicide attempts especially among students, are very devastating. Any initiative to avoid such incidents should therefore be prioritised. Before that, people should be made aware of the importance of mental health and how it affects others in silence.

Youth Mental Health Dialogue is one of the best series out of 30 series for IIUM Grand Mental Health Month. It is encouraged for everyone, especially the IIUM community, to visit their Facebook: Counseling & Career Services Centre, IIUM to watch their post updates and FB Live series to find out more about mental health.***

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