“Frequency and extremity of flood events (in Malaysia) have increased in recent decades with projections they could increase with continued global warming,” said the report which was released in 2021.
There is concern among mental health experts in Malaysia that there will be more flood victims, who will in turn show symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Such cases could start with depression and anxiety. Eventually, there may be more suicides.
Mental health expert Andrew Mohanraj, who is president of the Malaysian Mental Health Association (MMHA), told CNA that those with PTSD from floods are likely to report intense feelings of anxiety, depression and paranoia.
“A person having PTSD will exhibit symptoms like being highly irritable, sometimes even violence towards others, having poor sleep, as well as feeling guilty and having a great deal of shame over what happened,” said Mohanraj.
“And then of course, unfortunately, in trying to cope with this then the person might tend to resort to maladaptive coping strategies, like abusing substances such as sleeping medication and alcohol. And, sadly, in some cases, this results in suicide as well,” he added.
In Abdul Rahman’s case, he was referred to counsellors from the Ministry of Health and underwent weekly tests to monitor his trauma level.
“When the sky gets dark and I hear thunder, my stomach would sink. I have never been afraid of heavy rain like how I feel now,” he told CNA.
Rohini Krishnan, a counsellor from Meraky Counselling Services who has treated flood victims in Kedah, suggested that Abdul Rahman’s trauma level is likely to be high given the magnitude of grief and bereavement from the incident.
“The loss of loved ones will definitely exacerbate the impact of the trauma on the individual … because it’s something much, much more than loss of property and valuables,” she said.
“For such cases, the person might be at level eight or nine or even 10 (out of a scale of 10). Counsellors need to sit down (with him) and do a lot of processing and uncovering to help in recovery,” she added.
Last month, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said that Malaysia saw an 81 per cent increase in suicide cases overall in 2021, with 1,142 cases reported last year as compared to 631 cases in 2020. He noted that a main cause for this was mental health issues exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.