Malta has had a lot to talk about in the last few weeks, particularly when it comes to mental health and the taboos that surround it. At face value, it seems that we as a nation trend towards euphemising mental health problems, trivialising issues such as postpartum depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive traits, and barely considering the health professionals that tend to these patients every single day.
Lovin Malta spoke to 200 anonymous Maltese people via a survey on mental health, and the responses were as varied as they were eye-opening. Here’s the rundown.
Photo: Martin Attard, DOI
A quick overview
Of these respondents, 62.4% identified as female, 35.9% identified as male, and the remainder did not disclose their gender identity.
75.7% of all participants were under the age of 30, with some even younger than 14 years of age.
Most respondents reported moments of extreme sadness and loneliness
A staggering 76.8% and 74.6% have been either extremely lonely or sad at some point in their lives. Many echoed sentiments of uncertainty at their feelings, and the sense of not knowing who to turn to.
These are some answers we received.
Female university student aged 19-25: “The first time I experienced depression I was 14. I had no idea what it was. It lasted almost 7 months and I didn’t know how to talk about it, things that were easy for me became almost impossible tasks, I felt lonely, pathetic, worthless and hopeless.”
Female employed citizen aged 36-40: “[I’ve] tried talking about my thoughts and issues. People tend to think I’m making a fuss over nothing and I’ll get over it – seems to be a general feeling with people who have no experience with mental health issues.”
Unspecified post-graduate student aged 19-25: “I have struggled with anxiety and suicidal thoughts/tendencies for a couple of years. Honestly, no organisation has helped. They treat me like I’m a fragile being and are way too condescending.”
“The first time I experienced depression I was 14. I had no idea what it was.”
Trust in the mental health sector is mixed
We asked our readers to rate mental health services. Less than 20% gave the services tied to mental health a score over 5, but there were others who were quick to highlight their own success stories.
“The public mental health clinics have literally saved my life.”
Female university student aged 19-25: “I visited a friend who was kept in Mount Carmel as she was a suicide risk. Although the nurses and carers are working to the bone to try and help everyone, the resources and the hospital itself were so bad that I was very careful what I said to my therapist so I would not end up there.”
Male university student aged 19-25: “A close friend is a nurse at Mount Carmel. She works her ass off everyday to try and help people through the darkest moments of their lives. But the hospital is underfunded, new staff aren’t properly trained and the current staff are stretched so thinly. She’s getting burnt out and I just wish they’d get the help they need to do their work and help heal these people going through hell.”
“I just wish [hospital staff] get the help they need to do their work and help heal these people going through hell.”
Female unemployed citizen aged 30-35: “My aunt was only kept in hospital a few days after attempting suicide, with no help offered to her or any sort of follow-up.”
Male employed citizen aged 31-35: “The public mental health clinics have literally saved my life. Thanks to their ongoing assistance I am managing my illness and in the darkest periods they went out of their way to help me.”
Many don’t feel comfortable discussing mental health (including their own) with colleagues, family or friends
Female student aged ≤14: “At a point I felt unaccepted by everyone around me.”
Female post-graduate student aged 19-25: “I suffer from anxiety attacks but have not looked for help. Don’t like to speak about it much either as the mentality is that I am ‘making a fuss’.”
Male employed citizen aged 26-30: “People honestly cannot begin understand what it is like to have mental health issues unless they experienced something themselves or have close ones who suffered. The reactions from people like Clint Camilleri gives me little hope that open discussion will actually change anything.”
Female employed citizen aged 36-40: “I believe that over the years Maltese people have become more open about mental health disorders, but there is still a huge lack of information about them. I know people with diagnosed mental disorders who refuse to speak about it because of fears of stigmatisation.”
Female unemployed citizen aged 31-35: “I’ve had to leave two jobs due to situations aggravating my already present disorders (OCPD, borderline high-functioning autism, depression and severe anxiety) and complete lack of help by HR in both cases. I’d like to note that at both jobs I was commended for the work I did.”
Despite this, people are willing to speak up on ways to improve the issues surrounding mental health
In the large part, people are looking for open discussion, communities to join, and a revamp of mental health services across the board. They also tapped into educational reform and to end the idea of segregating mental health from other conditions.
Female university student aged 19-25: “Make mental health more spoken of and not something to hide. It makes people feel ten times worse and it need to be spoken of at schools and on TV. People need to know it is normal to feel like that and they need to know they can speak about their problems.”
Female employed citizen aged 26-30: “A bottom-up approach is necessary. Mental health is just like any other illness. Rather than focusing on removing stigma we need to instigate a culture of psychological well-being.”
Male university student aged 19-25: “Drastically increase funding to MCH. Advertising campaigns in English and Maltese showing where and how to get help if you need it. [Don’t] just throwing new staff at the problem but take time to make sure all staff are trained with modern nursing techniques. The field of mental health nursing is constantly evolving so it’s paramount we ensure our doctors and nurses are up to date.
Female employed citizen aged 36-40: “Although campaigns are effective to raise awareness, we need more lifeskills teaching in our schools. The younger generations need to learn to be more accepting of these people’s difficulties, understand what it is like for these people to have a different perception of reality, know what the different disorders mean (for example, many people confuse schizophrenia with bipolar disorder), and learn how to relate to them, both on a personal as well as on a professional level.”
What are your thoughts on Malta’s mental health? Let us know in the comments section below.
If you need feel the need to talk to someone about your mental health or someone you care for, or are looking for more information, or simply need someone to listen to you, please call 179. Alternatively, visit www.kellimni.com to get in touch online