As music played, students closed their eyes, laid on the ground or leaned on each other while dance movement psychotherapist Mahisha Naidu spoke gently, telling them to “release their weight to the ground”, and to “trust each other completely”. As the tempo picked up, some spun around and swung their arms, smiles spreading across their faces.
The dance workshop was just one of the activities at Taylor’s University Psychology Day: The Art of Expression, organised by The Psych Society, comprising of students in the Psychology course from the School of Liberal Arts & Sciences at Taylor’s University. Nearly 200 students from nine universities explored the ways to use dance, drama and music as therapy to manage mental and emotional issues.
The event coincided with the 12th Psychology Day at the United Nations, which is an initiative to highlight global issues that affect a person’s well-being and brings current issues to light.
The occasion was graced by the Deputy Director-General (Medical) of Ministry of Health, Datuk Dr. Hj. Rohaizat bin Hj Yon, who launched the event. Noting that mental health was a critical issue of concern for the country, he noted that private entities and educational institutions could play a part in tackling the problem.
“The ratio for mental health issues has increased from one in every 10 students in 2011 to one in five students in 2016. Students these days have much more to contend with – as now most of them have a smartphone. They are not socialising with their friends in the physical world much anymore, and they have to face problems such as cyberbullying and comparing themselves to everyone else on social media,” he said.
Deputy DG Datuk Dr Rohaizat speaks with a Psych Society student while Dr Anasuya looks on
“This issue needs all sectors of society, from non-government organisations to private entities and education providers such as Taylor’s, to play their part. I’m glad that Taylor’s has a psychology programme, and a Psych Society that organises events such as this for awareness purposes,” he added.
Students from Bachelor of Psychology programme have celebrated Psychology Day every year on since 2015. According to Professor Dr Pradeep Nair, Deputy Vice Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer, Taylor’s University, “I feel this is timely, because there was a lot of talk about mental health in the papers. This is a worrying trend and not to mention that the economic burden of mental illness, in terms of loss of income, go into the millions.”
He added that the university, with its newly introduced Taylor’s Curriculum Framework, includes emphasis on emotional wellbeing and integrates components such as mindfulness in its programmes. He felt that this aspect was even more critical to a student than merely grades.
Pic 1-Datuk Dr Hj Rohaizat launches Taylor's Psychology Day 2019
“In Malaysia, we’re producing thousands of graduates who are very good in their discipline but perhaps not very adept in their own emotional wellbeing and social intelligence. Whether you get first class and second class upper in your degree is becoming less and less important to employers. What is important is how well do you regulate yourself and know your own emotions, how well you can work with others, how resilient are you and how you deal with failure,” he said.
Psych Society president, Aiman Fadhilah binti Ahmad Rozley, said; “The use of art as therapy was an aspect of psychology none of us knew much about and wanted to explore it and we think that this year’s Psychology Day theme will be useful as many of us lack the confidence to express ourselves artistically.”
Aiman Fadhilah added that leading up to the event, several members of the Psych Society visited the Chin Student Organisation (CSO) Puchong earlier this month, conducting a series of activities to enable the Myanmar refugee children to use drawing and body movements as a form of expression.
Group pic on stage at the launch of Taylor's Psychology Day
“We decided to visit the refugee children because we wanted to further engage with an external community. This was an opportunity for us to perhaps inspire the children and ourselves to willingly express our thoughts,” she said.
Other event highlights for the day included a forum, exhibition booths, performances by student societies and a stand-up comedy session by Syrian refugee Hasan al-Akraa, who used comedy to cope with his difficult experiences.