Dear Thelma: I’m worried sick about Covid, SPM and my future

Is something bothering you? Do you need a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on? Thelma is here to help.

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Are you suffering from mental health issues or contemplating suicide? Contact the Befrienders service nearest to you. For a full list of numbers and operating hours, go to befrienders.org.my/centre-in-malaysia.

Dear Thelma,

I DO NOT have the motivation to study; I lost it a long time ago.

Online classes have not been effective at all. It is super hard to understand the teachers during online classes.

The Education Ministry’s decision that students return to school has not only put the Fifth Formers at risk but also the teachers as they have a higher chance of contracting the virus. There have been so many cases near my schooling area yet we are forced to go back to school.

Every day I have the urge to end my life because I worry so much about my future. I want to be a pharmacist or a biochemical engineer but I need certain results to qualify for the courses. Looking at the lack of motivation, constant breakdowns, and online classes that are not effective, I am so worried about the SPM. This is so hard for all of us. I’m crying as I type this because I can’t take it anymore.

The SPM was postponed thrice and the pandemic has taken a huge toll on our mental health.

We are the younger generation of this country and treating us like this is the last thing they should do. Why can’t they follow UK’s move – they cancelled all their major public exams and came up with an alternative.

And how about the people who are victims of this year’s flood? Can they be expected to do well in the SPM when they don’t even have a safe house to study in? It’s not fair to them. Not to mention the mental state of all the students.

Our grades will be tremendously affected with lack of classes and being burnt out. Please help us.


Dear Vish,

This is not an easy time, and when routines and systems are upset, uncertainty can lead to anxiety. From your letter, your anxiety has peaked and led to suicidal thoughts.

You do not mention your parents, guardians or family. I think it’s important to talk to them about this. Open up to the person you are closest to (your mum, perhaps? Or your dad?) and tell them about your anxiety and your suicidal thoughts.

As this is a mental health crisis, ask them to arrange for you to talk to a mental health professional who is trained to deal with suicide and anxiety. You can source a psychiatrist or psychologist through your nearest government hospital.

If you find it difficult to open up, or have questions, call Talian Kasih (call 15999/ WhatsApp 019-26 15999) or Befrienders (03-7627 2929). They’re very nice people and they will guide you.

As for practical matters: when it’s done well, online teaching and learning can be wonderful. However, it takes a lot of training and skill to create quality online resources. Few teachers have the proper equipment, training and practice.

Many students don’t have equipment or access, either. And even in the best of circumstances, the technology doesn’t work seamlessly all the time. So please be mindful that this is a pandemic, it’s weird and it’s knocked everyone for a loop. This is true for everyone.

That’s important because you are comparing your situation to that of people who studied two and three years ago. I strongly suggest you shift your focus.

Because everyone is in this situation, nobody is going to get great exam marks and nobody is going to dance straight into university programmes. Everyone is affected.

As this has been going on for a year now, universities have changed their expectations.

Universities are not comparing your year to previous years. They don’t expect you to have gone through the same education. They do not expect you to have attended all your school classes. They certainly don’t expect you to produce amazing SPM results.

Universities are still figuring out what they’ll do this year and next year. Whatever happens, they will take into consideration postponed exams and the effects of hit-and-miss distance learning.

What can you do? My advice is this: don’t obsess about the stuff that isn’t working. Instead, focus on what you can do.

Take control and educate yourself. Read textbooks, encyclopaedias, and books written by scientists and teachers.

Watch DidikTV, National Geographic and the Discovery Channel.

Google online education resources created by governments for schoolkids in the UK, USA, Australia, Canada and other countries. Most are freely available to the public.

If you do exams, do them as well as you can. As everyone is missing out, schools will help you compensate for it later on. Expect to take a few more classes when you go to university, or to do an extra catch-up programme.

In the meantime, take care of yourself. Sleep properly, eat plenty of fruit and veg, exercise every day, do your share of chores around the house, connect with your family and friends, and when it’s time to hit the books, focus on the things you can do for yourself.

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