Friday, March 24

Expert hopes to share her studies on mental health


Essau (seated second right) having a meeting with Fatimah (seated centre) together with her ministry staff and representatives from supporting agencies in Sarawak.

KUCHING: A Sarawakian expert in Child and Adolescent Psychopathology hopes to share her research work in youth mental health through an international conference here next year.

University of Roehampton, UK, clinical and adolescent psychologist Professor Dr Cecilia A Essau said one of the clinical areas she wanted to discuss was on how to treat anxiety disorders among young people so that they would not develop mental health problems later in life.

“We had studied children and young people from the time they are in their mother’s womb until the age of 25. The reason why it is so important to focus on that age group is that we saw adults who had mental illness later in life,” she said.

“Usually such episodes (mental illness) begin quite early when the child is six or seven years old, and quite a lot of them peak at the average age of 15. It does make sense to do research as early as possible with these young people,” she added.

Essau, a Sarawakian, briefed reporters on what she hoped to share in a conference – planned for 2018 – during her courtesy call and discussion on the subject with Minister of Welfare, Community Well Being, Women, Family and Childhood Development Datuk Fatimah Abdullah at her office here on Wednesday.

Sharing further on her research topic, Essau said all of us experience anxiety and that a certain level of anxiety is good, although too much anxiety is a negative thing.

“In our research, we look at it in children and adolescents and found out that up to 32 per cent of the general population of children and adolescents had been diagnosed with the problem,” she lamented.

Essau, who is also Professor of Developmental Psychopathology and director of the Centre for Applied Research and Assessment in Child and Adolescent Well-Being at the university, said a child may experience something called separation anxiety disorder, where children are afraid that they are going to be separated from their parents such as when they go to school.

She also shared other forms of anxiety disorders which are often misdiagnosed and classified as panic disorder.

“Panic disorder is often misdiagnosed with heart attack because such people have the same diagnosis like sweating, palpitation, and have problems breathing,” she revealed.

Essau hoped that the state government could have the convention here as it has always been held in the United Kingdom for the past 12 years.

“I hope we are given the opportunity to share our expertise in this field here as Sarawak is a developing state and the government is taking care of the social wellbeing of our society here.

“Apart from the subject of anxiety, we also want to talk about depression, autism, learning problems and so forth,” she said.

Essau, who hails from Sri Aman, is internationally known for her research in youth mental health.

She is the author of 220 articles and is the author/editor of 20 books in the area of youth mental health, and has given 33 keynote addresses in major national and international conferences and over 95 invited lectures/workshops in 43 countries.