The Association for Community and Dialogue is concerned that distress calls statistics received by government agencies from 25 March 2020 to 20 May this year revealed that 85.5% of the calls were related to mental health issues that require emotional support and counselling.
Health Minister Dr Adham Baba said these issues included acute stress, anxiety, depression, abuse and suicidal behaviour.
The Covid health crisis and consequent damage to the economy has affected the psychological and socioeconomic wellbeing of the people.
Lockdowns have a spiritual and psychological impact on people who have always kept themselves busy working outside their homes. Lockdowns also reinforce the anxiety of the jobless, who cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Families who have lost their loved ones because of Covid and others whose close ones are in quarantine or sick are also affected.
The government has come up with various programmes such as wage subsidies, penjana kerjaya (job creation) and aid to those have lost their jobs. All these programmes, which are good in themselves, are carried out from the perspective of seeing human persons as instruments of economic progress rather than through contemplation of the inherent truth that human beings are not just made for economic success.
But people have spiritual intelligence – beyond the physical sense – that is essential for overall human wellbeing. While counselling and emotional support are important, these deal only with psychological and rational intelligence instead of the whole self. Intelligence is not just made up of the mind; it has an interior life that is in harmony with nature and creation.
It is sad that over the decades, some religious leaders have confined their teachings to mechanical, rote religious learning or are involved in communal ethno-religious rhetoric instead of cultivating silence and experiencing the contemplative life in their communities.
A person who is in unity with God, himself or herself, and creation would be able to understand and accept the reality of changing situations which he or she is part of and that would ultimately lead to new life, new beginnings.
Religious leaders should lead their respective congregation in silence and contemplative life, imbued in their respective religious traditions. This would help rejuvenate the spirit of the people amid the current healthcare and economic crisis.
Counselling and emotional support alone are inadequate. Wisdom and harmony with nature’s realities are also vital. Intelligence is not merely about the mind.