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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 139-141

The Malaysian Perspective of the COVID-19 Outbreak from a Social Psychiatric Lens

1 Alaminda Specialist Clinic, R.01.19, Emira Residence and Urban Retail, Selangor, Malaysia
2 Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, Pusat Perubatan UKM, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
3 Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, Hospital Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah, Temerloh, Pahang, Malaysia

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Hazli Zakaria
Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, Pusat Perubatan UKM, Jalan Yaacob Latif, Bandar Tun Hussein Onn, 56000 Cheras, Kuala Lumpur
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/WSP.WSP_37_20

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The pervasive spread of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 has resulted in a global pandemic. The virus arrived in Malaysia in January 2020 but only started to significantly spread in March after the country hosted a large international religious gathering. The government response to the outbreak was effective, resulting in a high recovery rate of the afflicted. This response included the enactment of a “Movement Control Order” (MCO), which saw gradually increasing restrictions on public movement, leading ultimately to a lockdown. The MCO has been a cause of psychological unrest in the population due to social isolation, financial stress, and the limitations placed on cultural practices. This increase in psychological unrest has manifested quantifiably, specifically in the observed 57% spike of domestic violence following the enforcement of the MCO. The initiatives that were implemented to curb the public decline in mental health included a hotline offering psychological first aid, which saw reasonable success. However, it is suspected that a large proportion of those suffering from mental health issues is not coming forward to use the available services due to the prevalent mental health stigma in the country. On May 1, the MCO was drastically relaxed, and public movement was again allowed despite a considerable number of new infections being reported daily. This, in turn, inspired more psychological anxiety in the population, and it is speculated that the feelings of unease and uncertainty due to the coronavirus outbreak and resulting MCO will carry forward into the following months.

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