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Mental illness stigmatisation among Malaysian adults: a systematic review

09 November 2023
Volume 32 · Issue 20



Stigmatisation is considered a ‘second illness’ for people with a mental illness and is highly prevalent in Malaysia. Stigmatisation negatively impacts wellbeing, recovery and productivity. Addressing stigmatisation is integral towards people attaining a higher quality of life.


To explore mental illness stigmatisation in Malaysian adults.


A systematic literature review was conducted using thematic analysis to synthesise and categorise evidence. Five key themes emerged, providing insight into mental health stigmatisation.


Cultural beliefs, limited knowledge of mental health and lack of education on mental health were factors influencing stigmatisation. Stigmatisation significantly affected the wellbeing and functioning of people with a mental illness. Interventions such as contact-based education effectively reduce stigmatising attitudes manifested by healthcare providers.


Establishing mental health literacy, encouraging patient contact, promoting mental health awareness and strengthening mental health policies could reduce mental illness stigmatisation and its impact in Malaysia. Future research is warranted to investigate the impact on physical wellbeing and anti-stigmatising strategies targeting the general public.

Mental illness affects 450 million people worldwide, leading to mental health-related disability, morbidity and mortality (Tay et al, 2018). In Malaysia, mental health disorders continue to rise, affecting 16.8% of the population according to the latest data (Midin et al, 2018). Furthermore, explorations of mental disorders among Malaysian adults by Midin et al (2018) and Tay et al (2018) revealed that the 2015 National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) demonstrated a threefold increase in incidence over the period 1996 to 2015. The gravity of the challenge of mental health in Malaysia is illustrated by the stark observation that 3 out of 10 Malaysian adults have experienced some form of mental illness. Subsequently, the 2019 NHMS revealed that the prevalence of depression was 2.3%, accounting for half a million Malaysian adults (Institute for Public Health, 2019).

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