In response to the relatively high level of anxiety expressed by individuals about contemporary life, panelists at a forum yesterday spoke of the importance of keeping a check on one's mental health and suggested that people could do a "mental health check-up" once or twice a year.
Hu Hai-kuo (胡海國), head of the psychiatry department at National Taiwan University Hospital, made the remarks at a forum hosted by Common Health magazine, entitled "The Psychological and Mental Health of Today's Youth: Ways to Relieve Pressure and Relax."
According to a survey conducted by the magazine, 83 percent of the respondents expressed anxiety regarding mental health in society today.
Statistics reveal that depression has been on the increase, and that the suicide rate has jumped from 7 out of every 10,000 to 15.3 out of every 10,000 over the last 10 years, a figure surpassing that of the US.
The survey also revealed that 40 percent of people today have trouble sleeping, 40 percent felt misunderstood, and 70 percent felt that they were treated unfairly by society.
Meanwhile, an average of just 47 percent felt that they would seek the help of strangers when in trouble.
Hu said that depression was often the result of a discrepancy between the brain's resources to deal with environmental stressors.
Other factors such as biological predisposition, stresses in the environment, past experiences, personality and the influence of external agents such as alcohol or drugs play influences as well.
He said that an individual's "self" is divided into affect, behavior and cognition.
Giving details of her somewhat turbulent family circumstances as a child, former actress Hu Yin-mon (胡因夢), who was another panelist at the forum, noted that personal awareness and development play a role in depression as well.
With a father in his 60s who lost his will to live and who was in a near vegetative state, and a mother who was mentally fragile, Hu said that developing self-awareness played a crucial role in sustaining her own mental health.
Outlining several ways of relieving mental pressure, Hu spoke of different clinical treatments, such as counselling and family therapy, and changes in day-to-day lifestyle, such as getting enough sleep and finding time to relax.
Various alternative therapies, such as practicing meditation and consulting a dietician or nutritionist, are ways of reliving mental pressures as well, Hu added.