From peer pressure to finances – Malaysian athletes share mental struggle

Loh Jack Chang achieved much during his years serving the nation as a wushu exponent.

It was not smooth sailing, however, says the former world champion who faced numerous hurdles in being the best in the sport.

The biggest challenge, Loh revealed, was ensuring he was mentally strong at all times.

“It was not easy. There was the pressure of performing well and personal woes like finances,” said Loh as he recalled his wushu days.

“It was not easy living in a big city as money was a concern and it did affect me in a way too, mentally.”

National shuttler Vivian Hoo admitted it can be lonely at the elite level.

“Friends and family are my pillar of strength,” Hoo said.

Loh and Hoo were featured in a video before the #LuarBiasa: Putting the Human in the Superhuman virtual forum yesterday. The forum, organised by Mind Gap, was in conjunction with World Mental Health Day yesterday.

Other personalities spoke about peer pressure and managing expectations.

Former national shuttler Daphne Ng said as an athlete, her biggest mental health issue was when she got injured.

“I had been progressing well and then tore my Achilles tendon and couldn’t walk.

“I was shy to go out, my self-confidence was low. Most athletes are like that, then when you don’t do well, you feel you are just not good enough as a human being. It can be depressing and demotivating.

“I’m glad I had supportive family and friends who kept encouraging me and made me feel a whole lot better.”

Ng said it took her about one year to fully recover and reach her pre-injury performance level.

“The injury slowed me down but it somehow made me stronger,” she added.

Ng was among the five panellists on the forum. The others were National Sports Institute sports psychologist Phillip Lew, ultimate Frisbee athlete Bernard Lee, national dodgeball player Kerby Ng and Twentytwo13 editor Haresh Deol.

The session was moderated by Elgin Voon from Mind Gap. The forum was in collaboration with Twentytwo13.

Lew said there has been much news in the media related to mental health since the lockdown in March.

“This is good as it will educate more people about the subject. Mental health should not be seen as a bad thing. It doesn’t automatically mean someone is sick.

“Mental fatigue is part of mental health as well. In fact, it also affects coaches and even psychologists.”

Ng said at the world stage, it’s all about mental strength.

“All the athletes are very much of the same level but the differentiator is mental strength.

“We need to educate people about mental health and it starts from schools … allocate time to teach … even before NSI gets involved with the elite athletes,” Ng added.

Befrienders Kuala Lumpur patron Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, had in a statement yesterday, said almost half a million Malaysians experience symptoms of depression.

He added according to the 2019 National Health and Morbidity Survey, 424,000 children experience mental health problems.

“The Health Ministry recorded 465 attempted suicide cases between January and June this year,” he said, adding he hoped the government will allocate more funds for mental healthcare.