It took everyone by surprise, when the news of Linkin Park's frontman Chester Bennington's death by suicide
broke in July.
In fact, his wife recently released a video of him eating trick jelly beans, showing the rockstar fooling around with his family. But the short clip displayed no obvious signs
of depression a day and half before Bennington took his own life.
Is that the reality of depression these days, affecting an increasing number of young people?
The Malaysian Health Ministry noted that anxiety and depression are some of the main reasons behind mental health issues faced by students. Data showed that one in 10 individuals faced such issues in 2011, rising to one in five last year.
Not talking about it
We spoke to a couple of experts who offered deeper insights into this topic.
Clinical psychologist Low Yaw Dong says youth often face adjustments, particularly when they are in college. They experience new friendships, romantic relationships as well as stress from studying or coping with finances.
Seeking help is not easy for most - what more for the young person - who feels stigmatised if they reach out to therapists.
“In order to reach out to the students, a lot of destigmatisation work has to be done, such as having peer support group and peer-refer-peer programmes, and working with lecturers to identify stressed students,” says Low, who is with the Inpsych
Psychological and Counselling Services.
Mental health expert Puveshini Rao agreed with the importance of creating awareness to encourage a wider acceptance of stress faced by young people.
“This (awareness) helps the young person and those around him or her to notice these symptoms and feel more comfortable to seek help, then it is important to build rapport and trust with the young person,” she says.
Puveshini outlines the way she works with young people so the right help can be offered to them.
“It is important to ensure that the students know what therapy entails and to set expectations at the outset.
“Students or young people are assured of confidentiality. Only after gaining the student’s approval and consent does the therapy move forward,” says this clinical psychologist, who is with Rekindle
Centre for Systemic Therapy Malaysia.
Firstly, steps are taken to understand the situation from a young person's point of view. This is done by gathering information on family and social situations, level of functioning, protective factors, challenges and coping strategies.
So mental health professionals have to be an active listener, taking into account the student's reality before formulating solutions.
But what if the young person doesn't like face-to-face meetings or finds therapy too expensive or worse, is afraid of embarrassing himself or herself in front of a total stranger?
Both Puveshini and Low agreed that online therapy is an accessible option but with reservation.
“A person who has social anxiety and wants to use e-therapy, this itself could reinforce his social anxiety as the person may use the digital platform to avoid speaking to new people.
“Or for a person with high suicide risk, the therapist may not be able to identify (the risks),” Puveshini says, adding that lack of cues from facial expressions and disruptive connections may affect the quality of the therapy.
It would be difficult to build rapport, or engage in role-play type therapy, adds Low.
Puveshini says digital solutions may not be suitable for all, particularly in cases involving violence, domestic or otherwise, active suicidal ideation, serious substance abuse, or an immediate and urgent crisis.
On the flipside, both experts felt that online therapy offers a sense of perceived privacy as no one will see the young person physically entering or leaving the shrink's office.
“When the anxiety of meeting someone new is taken away, it frees the person up to self-reflect in other ways,” adds Puveshini.
Online therapy is also a form of journaling, she says, as typing, reviewing and reflecting can be therapeutic in its own way.
But Puveshini emphasises that while the appeal of keyboard therapy is understandable, it depends on the individual and the goodness of fit of the presenting problem and the type of therapy.
Be aware of the signs
Ultimately, support can come in different forms. Low and Puveshini advise that it is helpful to identify warning signs of suicide, change in behaviour and note reminders of positive factors in life to cope with suicidal feelings.
Regardless what works for you, the lesson to be shared here is to always speak up, whether offline and online whenever you hit a low period.
Here are a few services that you may find useful:
BetterHelp matches clients to counsellors who are psychologists, marriage and family counsellors, as well as licensed clinical social workers. Clients are able to access their counselling available anytime, anywhere, through a computer, tablet or smartphone via their mobile app. There is a free trial period of seven days for this service.
7 Cups of Tea offers two things: a place to talk with unlicensed volunteer "listeners" and a platform for online therapy with licensed counsellors. While volunteer listeners are not professionals, they create a community feel for their clients allowing them to get stable emotional support, which is said to be the best medicine for someone just looking to vent. Listeners' service is free of charge, while a fee is imposed for professional advice.
Talkspace's main service is Unlimited Messaging Therapy, which puts clients in texting touch with a counsellor but they have free chat room feature. The latter is an initial consultation with a counsellor without the commitment or a requirement for payment. Talkspace uses only professional counsellors.
Lantern is more of a life-coach application and website. Clients take an assessment quiz and then embark on a programme based on cognitive behavioural therapy. It is short-term and goal-focused and clients will be given exercises to go through on their own and encouragement and support from a counsellor.
Presto listens to your needs and matches you with the best fit counsellor. Then you are given the opportunity to have a trial session with the counsellor before committing. This allows clients to explore and truly get the counsellor that is right for them.