(From left to right): Doreen Teh, clinical psychologist of Teh Healinghart Centre; Dr. Lynne Yong Ee Lin, clinical psychologist at Penang Adventist Hospital; Saras Pillay, Outreach Director of Befrienders Penang; and Phuah Ken Bin, consultant & co-founder of WorkzSpace Penang

“Good mental health is vital to an employee’s overall health and well-being. The rising digitalization of the workplace, including smartphones, digital devices and a myriad of online collaboration and meeting apps, has an evident negative impact on people’s mental health,” said Phuah Ken Bin, consultant & co-founder of WorkzSpace Penang.

“With BizTech Times as our media partner, we set out to increase awareness and understanding of mental health issues by sharing knowledge and experiences from mental health experts and advocates. We believe that education will bring about real change and promote positive mental health in our community.”

BizTech Times recently teamed up with mental health social movement group Hopes for Minds, as well as Penang’s newest co-working space provider WorkzSpace, to organize a mental health awareness talk “Empowering Good Mental Health in Today’s Digital Workplace” in Penang on 25 November 2023.

As WorkzSpace’s ecosystem partner, Digital Penang, an agency tasked to develop the state’s digital economy, also contributed resources in supporting the event and promoting a digitally engaged society. The half-day talk event attracted both professionals and individuals alike who were keen to learn how to manage mental health in today’s highly digitalized lifestyle and workplace.

The talk kicked off with an introductory session by clinical psychologist Doreen Teh of Teh Healinghart Centre on “Discovering Our Mental State”. She highlighted that stress, especially those associated with digital technology overload as well as social media pressures can be debilitating like being trapped in a confined room. She explained how stress could impact one’s physical health which is neither tangible nor easily diagnosed.  Her advice in managing one’s stress and anxiety is to prioritize self-care and not be afraid to reach out for help.

The next presenter, Dr. Lynne Yong Ee Lin, clinical psychologist at Penang Adventist Hospital focused her session on “Managing Mental Health – Keeping Depression in Check”. Dr Lynne alluded that digitalization has resulted in more ‘techno’ stress. Some tend to struggle and even bullied for not knowing how to use the latest technology. She delved into the causes of work stress and how depression could easily set in if helplessness and hopelessness persist. According to Dr Lynne, unhealthy attachment and distorted views of social media often leads to negative thoughts which could in turn lead to depression symptoms.     

During the short tea-break, participants had the opportunity to visit information booth set up by Befrienders Penang where they underwent a mental health screening through a survey and spoke to volunteers on support services available. Hope For Minds also provided the participants with activation activities where they could pick up practical mental health tips and affirmative quotes while unwinding with photo ops using fun props and memorabilia. Emoji prop sticks added a touch of playfulness, encouraging a light hearted exploration of emotions and expressions related to mental well-being.

The talk continued with a session by Befriender Penang’s Outreach Director Saras Pillay on “Activating Emotional Support for Better Mental Healthcare”.

“Providing emotional support requires a person to actively listen without judgment, and to show that they understand by responding empathetically. The key is to resist the impulse of trying to fix things or talk someone out of how they are feeling,” explained Saras. She cautions that such a technique would not yield any positive outcome. She also guided the participants on how and when to seek help to avert dire consequences.

During the panel discussion and Q&A session that followed, all three presenters agreed that one needs to practice self-care and be cognizant of the signs and symptoms to avoid falling prey to mental illness. One participant expressed his hope that although digitalization poses potential risks to mental health, the digital platform itself could also be a new source of help for those who want need counselling support while remaining anonymous.  

The event concluded with a highly spirited group activity on laughter therapy, skillfully facilitated by Doreen. With her cheerful and energetic demeanor, she got participants to experiment with various laughter techniques to diffuse stress and ignite positivity.

“Laughter, as a therapeutic tool, can release stress, lift your mood, and enhance our overall well-being”, said Teh as a reminder to all participants to exercise more laughter in their daily life.

“Empowering Good Mental Health in Today’s Digital Workplace” provided Penang’s business community with a much-needed platform to elevate awareness and foster a deeper understanding on mental health issues especially those related to the tech sector. In addition to the insightful talk sessions, the event also enhanced participants’ engagement by providing thoughtfully curated souvenirs and gift packs.

“We hope to empower more Malaysians to take charge of their mental health and strike a balance between personal well-being and work. More importantly, we all need to build a strong and reliable support network to help keep our mental state in check,” concluded Phuah.

Written by Mathuvarsini Sarigunaraja