For the past year and a half, the MCO has been a challenging time for Malaysians and as a result, mental health-related issues have been rapidly increasing nationwide. In fact, it was reported that Befrienders KL had been receiving over 100 calls daily since the start of MCO 3.0. This rise in mental health issues can be attributed to certain factors such as:
- Burnout/extreme stress caused by the repetition of mundane activities.
- Lack of human interactions, especially for those living alone.
- No proper way of relieving stress as most of us are still afraid of going out.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg! That’s why we’re extremely glad that this new Malaysian series is playing a role in shining a much-needed light on the issues of mental health, how it can be detrimental to a community, and why we must talk about it!
So what is this TV series about & how is it bringing awareness to this issue?
As we’re all aware, the stigma around mental health is highly prevalent in our society and because of this, there are not enough discussions being had about it. And if these struggles go undiscussed, sooner or later, it can affect our society as a whole.
This new series on Astro Original Series called I-Tanggang tells the story of Erma, a former nurse and single mother who actually suffers from Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy (MSBP) and has been staging her son Khalil’s illnesses for her own personal benefit. It has been intriguing to see how I-Tanggang has been sparking a lot of interesting discussions on Twitter surrounding the show’s unique topic.
FYI, MSBP is a condition where a caregiver (such as a parent) makes up an illness/injury in a person under their care (such as their child) in order to gain personal benefits. MSBP patients are not aware that what they do is harmful and possibly fatal.
This show also highlights the seriousness of mental illnesses and how they can escalate and become dangerous, affecting one’s whole life. Apart from Erma, the show will also showcase other characters that play an important role in highlighting some important issues in our society, such as:
- The bond between Erma and Khalil
Erma is a former nurse but she has now become a successful social media influencer and author who uses her cancer-stricken son as a way for her to gain sympathy. From the show, we can see Erma showcases the classic symptoms of an MSBP patient such as:
- Often having medical skills or experiences.
- Always appearing like a devoted caregiver to the victim.
- Constantly looking for attention or sympathy.
- Trying hard to be close to the medical staff treating their victim.
Erma’s behaviour might stem from personal problems, such as her failed marriage. Her unstable emotions often caused her to lash out violently at Khalil. This could also be the reason why Erma continues to abuse Khalil and use him as a means to gain attention and other benefits.
However, not once did Erma realise the serious consequences of her actions towards Khalil. This shows how much one’s life problems can actually severely impact their way of thinking without them even realising it. This also teaches us the importance of seeking help before the situation gets worse.
- Syafiq and his pregnant sister
Syafiq comes from a struggling family and has been forced to work odd jobs due to his neglectful father. One day, he finds out that his sister is pregnant out of wedlock. Due to their family’s reputation, he tries to find a solution for his sister which includes marrying her off or getting rid of the baby. This dilemma truly portrays how much our society puts so much emphasis on ‘saving face’ to the point that we would even sacrifice one’s well-being.
- Syafiq’s religious father who abandoned his family
Syafiq’s father is portrayed as a religious man but he often neglects his children to pursue religious activities. The irony, in this case, is that Syafiq’s father is so consumed by his “religious” image, that he actually forgets to act like one and carry out his responsibilities to his family.
His hypocrisy is further proven when he beats up his pregnant daughter for “humiliating” him by committing the huge sin of getting pregnant out of wedlock.
- Esra, a spoiled brat, who abuses her mother
Esra’s character seems well-off and while she has everything she wants, her parents failed to instil good values into her and instead, kept enabling her bad temper, letting her get away with everything. This quickly turned her into a temperamental teenager who would, at times, resort to violence including abusing her own mother.
Esra’s family shows the viewers how important it is to have healthy moral support from our families as we grow up. Even though Esra might be the most well-off as compared to the other characters, it still doesn’t guarantee that she will grow up to be a good person since she did not have a healthy relationship with her parents.
To help give you a better understanding of the characters in the show, watch its trailer here:
Also, can we just say how promising this trailer looks? Definitely not your typical drama show!
Play your part & identify the signs of mental illness
It is widely known that having mental health issues can affect how we feel, think and act, as portrayed in the series I-Tanggang. If you’re unfamiliar with mental health and its symptoms, here are some of the more common illnesses to look out for and how they present themselves:
1. Depression – One of the most common symptoms of clinical depression is when the patients start to lose motivation to perform simple tasks including brushing their teeth or taking a shower. This is because depression can cause patients to feel constant fatigue and they would also lose interest in completing any sort of activities. Thus, they’d view self-care tasks as a burden.
2. Anxiety disorder – Patients with anxiety disorder would often struggle with low self-esteem caused by irrational thoughts or the negative perception they have towards themselves. This can eventually affect the way they carry themselves in public and could even negatively impact their relationships with people.
3. Bipolar disorder – This condition presents itself in the form of extreme mood swings which can either be emotional highs or lows. These mood swings can affect the patients’ sleep, energy, behaviour and even their ability to think clearly.
Mental illnesses can pose grave challenges to their patients, but the fact that this topic is still relatively unpopular among Malaysians means that our society is not well-equipped to deal with this issue. Educating ourselves, having open discussions and spreading more awareness on these illnesses are pivotal in realising the importance of mental health.
What Malaysians can take away from this series
Evidently, the I-Tanggang series showcases situations that are actually happening all around us, whether we realise it or not. A show like this will certainly help push the narrative further and get our society to start talking about mental health, especially during this MCO.
It is now more important than ever to start reevaluating our mental spaces and make more effort to give our minds and bodies healthier breaks. We can start by:
- Making it a habit to call up at least one of your family members/friends daily.
- Practising healthier screen time and avoid being too consumed by social media.
- Finding physical hobbies such as painting, reading, gardening or baking which are both productive and therapeutic.
- Signing up for counselling sessions, if needed. You can find trainee counsellors offering free/reasonably priced sessions online.
Apart from the above things, it is also just as important to start sharing and teaching the importance of taking care of our mental health, especially on ways to seek help when we need it. You can remind people around you to check out the I-Tanggang series in order to get a better understanding of the gravity of mental health issues.
You can tune into this Astro Original Series, I-Tanggang, on every Monday at 9PM on Astro Citra. If you miss an episode, don’t worry! You can always catch it again anytime, anywhere On Demand via your Ultra Box, PVR Box or the Astro GO app. For more information on the series, head over to the website here. or you can also check out the #ITanggang hashtags on Twitter, Instagram or TikTok.
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