Post-GE14: Defeated, humiliated and depressed

THEY slumped into their chairs in disbelief at the massive pounding received on May 9.

The egos of the vanquished candidates – some who lost key positions in the federal and state governments – and their loyalists were floored during Malaysia’s 14th general election. They were shattered.

These politicians ignored their buzzing phones for days. They shied away from social media – a platform they heavily invested to woo voters – as the losers were mocked online.

The deafening silence continued days after the election, prompting veteran blogger and journalist Datuk Ahirudin Attan, better known as Rocky Bru, to put one politician – acting Umno president and Barisan Nasional chairman Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi – on the spot on Facebook last Friday.

It has been an orchestra of emotions for these politicians. At first, many were in denial as anger and bitterness overwhelmed them. Some, however, quickly embraced acceptance.

There were those, however, who remain “depressed“.

The Malaysian Mental Health Association says depression happens when five or more of the following symptoms set in for over two weeks. They are:

  • Extreme sadness
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Feeling of hopelessness, worthlessness and guilt
  • Poor concentration
  • Fatigue
  • Mentally or physically slow or agitation
  • Decrease/increase in appetite
  • Decrease/increase in sleep changes
  • Suicidal thoughts

According to Tan Sri Dr M. Mahadevan, “the biggest depression in the world is when a man loses in politics”.

“It’s even worse than going through a divorce or losing a loved one,” said the former chief psychiatrist to the government and founder of the Malaysian Psychiatric Association.

“Everyone is born with different values and has innate desires; some have good desires, some don’t. Some of us like animals, some of us like only money.”

“the biggest depression in the world is when a man loses in politics.”

“Some people operate dexterously with impunity under the umbrella of professional immunity. When they no longer enjoy the professional immunity, fear and anxiety set in.”

Having returned to Malaysia from Havard in 1967, Dr Mahadevan has witnessed 12 general elections.

“Many politicians have seen me for emotional disorder,” he said.

In between answering phone calls and with two other guests – an expert in economics and a lawyer – waiting patiently at his Ampang home, Dr Mahadevan said the “herd instinct” was still prevalent in the country.

“The supporters will just follow and if the leader is defeated or no longer around, the rest will not know what to do. They are overly dependent on their leaders and will be lost once there is no leadership,” he said.

A study carried out last year by the Health Ministry revealed 18,336 Malaysians suffer from various stages of depression.

The findings were obtained through screening programmes conducted on 273,203 people at health and community clinics.

Dr Mahadevan said the severity of feeling depressed and anxious boils down to the personality of the individual.

“The same fire that melts the butter hardens the egg. If you’re butter, you’ll melt. If you’re an egg, you’ll become hard.”

“If you’re butter, you may need some cooling down and be kept in the fridge before you become hard like stone again. But if you’re an egg, the more pressured you are, the harder you become.”

What is Dr Mahadevan’s recommendation for the battered politicians and their supporters?

“Politics is all about taking chances and as such politicians have to be emotionally mature. They have to learn to avoid anything that hurts them.”