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Mental Illness Treatment


Mental illness is a medical condition that interferes with thought, emotion and behavior. It disrupts the ability to relate to the surrounding and with other people. It causes deterioration in daily functioning.

Great advances have been made in the treatment of mental illness. Many mental disorders can now be treated. The treatment of mental disorders aimed to improve a person’s condition (relieving the symptoms) or in some cases, to recover completely from their surroundings.

When someone starts to develop symptoms of mental illness, it is important to bring him to a doctor. A doctor will then make a diagnosis based on the particular pattern of symptoms. Treatment will depend on the diagnosis of mental illness, its severity and life situation.

Common components of mental illness treatment are as follows:

  • Assessment of patient.
  • Treatment (Medical and psychosocial treatment)
  • Rehabilitation and community care.

Person Involved In the Management of Patient

  1. General Practitioner (GP) – GPs are usually the first doctor seen by patients. They either treat or refer patients to specialist. Mild cases can be followed up at GP clinic. Severe cases need to be treated in the hospital.
  2. Psychiatrist – Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in treating mental illness.
  3. Clinical psychologist – Clinical psychologists are professionals who specialize in conducting psychological assessment and treatment of psychological disorders.
  4. Counselor – Counselors are professionals who specialize in counseling.
  5. Social Worker – Social Workers are professionals who conduct social work-out and provide social security to his clients.
  6. Nurse – Nurses are trained to treat patients in the ward and in the community.
  7. Occupational therapist – Occupational therapists are involved in rehabilitation and psychosocial management of patients.

Public Or Private health Sector?

In Malaysia, a person can get help either through both public or private health sector depending on one’s preference.

Treatment Setting

A patient can be treated as outpatient or inpatient depending on severity of the illness and social support that he has. Most patients received their treatment as outpatient.

Inpatient treatment means someone needs to be hospitalized. Hospitalization is generally recommended when someone is not able to care for himself or when he is in immediate danger of harming himself or other people.

Types Of Treatment

At present, a number of options are available for mental illness. The treatment of mental illness is highly effective today. Between 70-90% of individuals would experience significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life, especially when medications are being combined with psychosocial modalities.

Type of treatment prescribed would depend on mental illness, severity of the symptoms, and what the patient and the doctor think will work best for you. In many cases, a combination of treatment work best.

Generally, treatment can be categorized into biological and psychosocial therapies.

Biological treatment includes:

  1. Medication – Most commonly used medications include antipsychotics, antidepressants, mood stabilizers and anti-anxiety.
  2. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) – ECT is a procedure utilizes electric currents passed through a person’s brain, deliberately triggering a brief seizure. This would cause changes in the brain chemistry that can rapidly reduce symptoms of certain mental illness such as depression. The procedure is carried out under standard operating procedures.

Psychosocial therapy includes:

There are two main techniques for this treatment.

  1. Psychotherapy – Psychotherapy is a general term referring to the process of treating mental illness by talking about your condition and related issues with a mental health provider. There are various types of psychotherapy, each with its own approach to improve the mental well-being. These include:
    • Cognitive Behavior Therapy
    • Interpersonal Psychotherapy
    • Individual, group and family therapy
    • Behavior therapy
    • Hypnotherapy
  2. Occupational Therapy (OT) – OT facilitates maximum independence in activities of daily living such as dressing and grooming as well as instrumental activities of daily living such as medication management and grocery shopping.
  3. Rehabilitation – Rehabilitation of mental patients help to recover lost skills in coping with the demands of everyday life and restoring relationships that may have become strained or damaged as a result of problems related to mental illness. The group rehab effort may include special classes that address common issues such as preparation of meals, and simple social skills training that help the patient to deal with such common tasks such as attending a party, or having a meal out with friends.
  4. Cognitive Remediation Therapy – Cognitive remediation is a type of rehabilitation treatment offering exercises with an aim at improving attention, memory, language and/or executive functions.
    • To train the brain functions with exercises which are regularly repeated and allow specific training in the deficient aspects of a cognitive function such as training the coding of information by going through the data over and over again.
    • To work with the preserved cognitive functions by encouraging the patient to develop strategies to process information. For example, the patient is told to memorize a shopping list by using a mental image composed of the various ingredients.

Participating In One’s Own Care

A person with mental illness is encouraged to take an active part in management of the illness. Teamwork between patients, doctors and mental health care providers can results in good outcome. One’s can discuss about symptoms, personal preferences, side-effects of medications and other issues related to the illness. In the end, it is the illness control and quality of life that matters.


Effective treatments for mental illness are available in Malaysia. Early recognition and early interventions promised the best outcome for the mentally ill.

Last Reviewed : 03 January 2012
Writer : Dr. Mazni Bt. Mat Junus