Mental health profiling vital to assess civil servants’ psychological functioning
The word “profile” may not be unfamiliar to many. It always refers to personality when used. Profiles carry some information about a person’s life, work, character, behaviour and hobbies. In our attempt to describe somebody, we will gather as much information of the person as possible. This is profiling activity. Basically, profiling is a scientific activity. It is understood as an activity of recording and analysing an individual’s psychological and behavioural tendencies, preferences and characteristics in order to get a better description of how the individual functions and how likely they would be functioning in the future, based on the criteria of their psychological characteristics and traits.
As a scientific activity and inquiry, profiling does not depend on any blunt assumption or stereotype of a person’s behaviour and character to base any judgement on him/her, as this would result in a very unfair accusation. Adhering to the empirical principle like this would help us avoid any misperceptions or misleads about a particular person at any given point of time. Similarly, when it comes to mental health profiling, we accumulate and gather as much information for a specific person at hand, and we thoroughly and objectively as possible measure his or her mental health stability and psychological functioning, through the utilisation of standard and empirical psychological assessment tools. Lastly, how the mental health profiling is done and what do we do with the information that we have is also crucial for the rest of the person’s life, his family and country, and that such profiling services and qualifications can only be achieved through professional training from recognised universities.
It is not uncommon to do a profiling in mental health service sector. This service has been doing very well in the developed countries. Therefore, there should be nothing to be worried about when it comes to implementation in other countries for its benefits. The main objective of mental health profiling aims at recognising the education and healthcare facilities that the person needs in order to help him or her to fully contribute to the society and country, and at the same time the service providers can deliver their service correctly and directly to them as among the group of people in need. In addition to that, information obtained from mental health profiling helps us to promulgate better mental health policies in the future so that there would be no difficulties arising from any misinformation of negligence.
In Malaysia, adopting the assessment approach to determine the status or mental health functioning of a person is yet to be considered important. As a result, it is not a requirement yet, either at the departmental level in any ministry or in any agency of the private sectors. Currently, it is only the Psychology Services Division of the Public Service Department as the constituting body that runs the psychological assessments for its workers that include various types of tests that measure attitudes, emotional stability and personality assessments. Inarguably, the tests provide very important information that determine the level of mental well-being of an individual, hence, helping in collecting data for screening and diagnostic purposes, and thus, profiling them to get the whole picture of an individual’s psychological functioning.
Considering that Malaysia has the largest number of civil servants compared to its Southeast Asia neighbouring countries, of which 70 per cent consist of high school graduates or those who have never attended colleges and universities, it seems that in terms of the distribution of mental illnesses, this group constitutes the largest group at risk of mental illness, compared to those with higher education. This briefly explains how the profiling is all about. Another attempt at profiling involves understanding what key aspects of causative factors that make why or how certain group of people are vulnerable to developing mental health problems in the society. However, such information will never exist, unless and until mental health screening exercise is considered to be important. In fact, based on what is happening nowadays as reported in the press, mental health problems such as suicide, rage, depression, anxiety, drugs withdrawal symptoms and others, are on the rise, which may end up unresolved without any signal that the problems could have been detected earlier, saved or prevented.
Generally, mental health assessment tests and tools are psychological or psychiatric in nature, which aims at assessing or identifying the status and capabilities of an individual’s psychological functioning, including aspects of emotion, thought, neurocognitive function, personality and the tendency of their behaviour. The tests have strong clinical standards that can be used not only for screening, but also in diagnosing mental disorders. Though more focused in hospital settings, clinics and health centres, its use is of no limitation. In fact, their availability should be wider in the community and access to psychiatrists and clinical psychologists should be easy. Hence, the existence of community mental health centres and community clinics in recent years is expected to realise such a goal, which is to perform routine mental health checks and ultimately be able to detect and identify any community member who needs intervention and further treatment of mental health care.
Therefore, in realising such an ambition, the first step toward the establishment of effective mental health profiling exercise is to have a pool of mental health screening and diagnostic tools and instruments available, and routinely checked by qualified mental health personnel.