The following article discusses topics of a sensitive nature which may be disturbing and/or controversial to some readers. Hence, reader discretion is advised. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the author and do not reflect Sunway University and Sunway College’s values.

Content warning: Mentions of self-harm and suicide.

In an age where coverage of mental illnesses have reached unprecedented levels worldwide, it is increasingly emphasised that having good mental health is cardinal in achieving a happy and fulfilling life. In 2019, WHO postulated that 1 in 8 people worldwide live with a mental disorder. Although this number may not seem startling on paper, things get ghastly once you put it into perspective. A 12.5% incidence rate suggests that nearly one billion people on the Earth are afflicted with mental disturbances. This would mean that in a classroom of 40 students, at least five of them may be struggling to keep their mental health in check. It could be the person sitting at the back, your best friend across the table, or it could even be you.

Nevertheless, long gone are the days where mental health issues were credited to the work of supernatural entities. Now is the time for positive change to take place against the stigmatisation of mental illnesses. Mental illness does exist, and a mentally ill person should not feel ashamed of their condition, nor should others shy away from any discourse surrounding the topic.

“Every day, it gets a little easier… But you gotta do it every day — that’s the hard part. But it does get easier.” – Jogging Baboon, BoJack Horseman

A mental illness is characterised by disturbances in an individual’s cognition, emotional regulation, or behaviour. According to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), nearly 300 mental disorders have been identified. Amongst these disorders, the top 5 most prevalent mental illnesses in the United States have been discovered to be anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorders, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and schizophrenia.

It should not be a shocker that mental health and mental disorders are constantly misportrayed in the media. They are often grossly dramatised to unrealistic heights for entertainment purposes. Yet, BoJack Horseman, an animated Netflix comedy series, has received global acclaim for its realistic portrayal of mental health. Yes, you have read that right; a comedy show about dysfunctional anthropomorphic animals demonstrates one of the most layered depictions of mental illnesses in the media. Heavily lauded by critics for its superb and realistic writing, BoJack Horseman has also been praised as one of the most innovative shows in the modern sphere. The show follows the journey of its titular character, BoJack Horseman, a washed-up, alcoholic superstar that desperately seeks to reclaim his former stardom. Along the way, viewers  are given the opportunity to peer deeper into the character’s psyche as he wrestles with his own demons. 

The show does not sugarcoat the behemoth that is mental health and illness; things get messy, people do things they do not mean to, and people get hurt. Episode 42 best exemplifies the absolute mental hellscape that exists within the mind of a person with depression. Plagued by overwhelming self-loathing for himself, the episode illustrates the self-hating thoughts of BoJack as crude, distorted drawings in his mind. Even the most mundane things elicit a negative reaction in him as he constantly berates himself for past and current failures, ultimately labelling himself as a “Stupid Piece of Sh*t.”

By the end of the series, BoJack does not miraculously become absolved of his inner demons or conflicts. There is no sudden metamorphosis or transformation; BoJack remains the same person as he has always been. Instead, he simply starts over on his path of rehabilitation and self-discovery. A six-season journey with multiple ups and downs culminates in him finally reaching the starting line to grasping a better life. 

Like reality, there is no mythical panacea for mental afflictions; you can only learn to accept them as part of yourself and push forward. Yet you should never let your mental illness be a justification for any wrongful actions. We are still equally accountable for our actions as anyone else.

You can’t keep doing this! You can’t keep doing shitty things and then feel bad about yourself as if that makes it okay! You need to be better!” – Todd, BoJack Horseman.

Indeed, the fight against mental illness can be lifelong for certain individuals, but it does not need to be undertaken alone. You should seek help under these circumstances.

  1. You have thoughts, emotions, or behaviours that are out of control, be it recurrent or rare, that detriment one’s relationships or health.
  2. You are struggling to cope with life’s challenges, such as with a major illness, the loss of a loved one, occupational issues, etc.
  3. Your use of alcohol or drugs detriments your health, emotions, relationships, and impairs normal functioning.
  4. You are confused, anxious, or depressed and need the perspectives of an unbiased person to help resolve difficult choices.
  5. You feel hopeless. You might feel like life is no longer worth living, as if death is better than the pain of the present.

Please. You need to reach out and ask for help. If none of the above reasons resonate, that is okay — still reach out if there is even the slightest urge to do so. Often, individuals battling mental illness dismiss their instincts and inner cries for help. You should neither feel ashamed to ask for help nor feel undeserving of the support. You don’t have to suffer in silence.

Here are some avenues to seek help.

1. Befrienders

Hotline Numbers    :    03 – 7956 8145 (Kuala Lumpur) | 24 hours

                05 – 547 7933 (Ipoh) | 4.00 PM to 11.00 PM

04 – 281 5161 (Penang) | 3.00 PM to 12.00 AM

Email            :    sam@befrienders.org.my

Website        :    https://www.befrienders.org.my/

Befrienders is a non-profit organisation that provides free emotional support for individuals who feel alone, distressed, or have suicidal thoughts.

2. Malaysian Mental Health Association (MMHA)

Contact Number    :    03 – 2780 6803

Email            :    admin@mmha.org.my

Website        :    https://mmha.org.my/

MMHA offers emotional support via their phone line on all mental health issues alongside qualified mental health professionals (psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, and counsellors) who provide psychological support services. Moreover, financial subsidies are available to ensure that required support is given to those in need.

3. Mental Illness Awareness and Support Association (MIASA)

Contact Numbers    :    03 – 7732 2414

60 13 – 878 1322

60 19 – 236 2423

Email            :    miasa.malaysia@gmail.com

Website        :    https://miasa.org.my/

MIASA offers various programs, including support groups, therapeutic assessment, circle time, and Islamic spiritual therapeutic programmes.

While celebrating Pride Month, it is crucial to raise awareness on mental health among LGBTQ+ individuals. You or a loved one may be struggling against mental illness and feel unsafe opening up. You could talk to a Trained Befriender or seek support from other LGBTQ+ individuals.

You matter. You are loved. You are not alone.

By: Yun Jing, Karran

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