Anis Farid
Anis Farid picture
Anis Farid

Project: Bahasa Malaysia - English (Youth) Mental Health Dictionary

Rationale: The language of mental health in Bahasa Malaysia, also known as Malay, remains imprecise or borrowed. Mental illness is often referred to as 'kesakitan mental' (a literal English translation), with no proper translation of the word rooted in Malay origins with the exception of 'sakit jiwa', which refers to a hurting of the soul and carries such heaviness that it can be scary, stigmatising, and potentially disempowering.

According to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, our ability to perceive and experience something is limited by the words we have to describe it. To have words in your language that resonate with you and your experiences is important, especially when labelling that experience.
Objective: The project aims to create a dictionary for youth mental health advocacy, in a language that resonates with how youth on the ground speak and think about mental health issues, primarily by first mapping out the methodology and study protocol. On one level, the project aims to better understand what language is being used and whether there is similarity or difference between the standard, healthcare way of speaking about mental health. While the main output is a dictionary that can be useful for practitioners, policymakers, and general laypeople alike, the project also hopes to delve deeper into why these differences may exist, probing into cultural understandings and underpinnings of mental health.