Buddy Bear

About Us

Humankind is a registered social enterprise based in Kuala Lumpur,  Malaysia.  We are on a mission to improve the social and emotional well-being of all communities, especially communities that are underserved and vulnerable.

Vision & Mission

We envision a world where everyone recognizes themselves as valuable, needed and connected. Our mission is to identify, resource, connect and support people who want to be of service. We believe kindness is powerful and that empowering ordinary people for service is the key to closing the mental health gap and ensuring well being for all.

Our Services

We deliver evidence-based, sustainable solutions that promote emotional and mental well-being.  We specialize in using the expressive arts, a powerful tool that is non-stigmatizing and inclusive, crossing language, cultural and social economic barriers. We partner with community organizations and schools.

Our programs include an after school intergenerational expressive arts programs. Brave Girls serve vulnerable girls. Expressive Sandwork addresses trauma. Buddy Bear Helpline provides Psychological First Aid to youth. Our community counseling provides both offline and online affordable professional mental health care.  KitaReka utilizes the arts as a mindfulness practice to promote social, mental and emotional well-being.

Ask The Experts

    Have a question for the expert? We got you covered! Published questions will remain anonymous.

    How are mental disorders diagnosed in young children?

    The diagnosis of mental illnesses in children is done based on the behaviors and symptoms a child exhibits which may suggest a specific form of distress.. Based on Smith (2021), although this process is similar with adults, diagnosing children can be more challenging due to their many developmentally normal  behaviours that can seemingly overlap with signs of mental disorders (eg; temper tantrums, shyness and anxiety). To be classified as actual clinical symptoms of mental disorders, such behaviours would happen very frequently over a long period of time,  they may occur at an atypical age, and they also significantly disrupt the child’s daily functioning. With such symptoms present, an evaluation by doing a complete medical history and physical exam should be first untaken before a psychological assessment. There are no specific lab tests to diagnose mental illnesses; however, doctors may perform imaging and blood tests to eliminate physical illness and medication side effects as the cause behind the symptoms.

    When these possibilities are ruled out, the child will most likely be referred to a child/adolescent psychiatrist or psychologist who specialises in diagnosing and treating mental illnesses in children and teens. At this point, the child and their parents may undergo interviews that are specially designed to detect early signs of mental illness. These interviews usually include discussing the child’s developmental and medical history, overall relationships, temperament, abilities, interests and whether they had any prior treatments. The psychologist would also tend to rely on reports of the child’s behaviours from their teachers and other adults. This process is done thoroughly alongside continuous observations of the child’s attitudes and behaviours, due to their lack of skills in communicating their problems to others.

    Which mental disorders are often seen in children and teens?

    There are a few types of mental illnesses that are commonly seen in children and teens; namely those grouped under emotional disorders, childhood behavioural disorders and developmental disorders. Those with emotional disorders may experience depression, anxiety, as well as excessive irritability, frustration and or anger. These symptoms are known to overlap across more than one emotional disorder, which can be seen through rapid shifts in moods and emotional outbursts. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the 2020 global statistics showed that depression is the fourth main cause of illness and disability among teens aged 15-19 years, and fifteenth for those aged 10-14 years. As for anxiety, it takes ninth place as the leading cause among the 15-19 age group, and an alarming sixth place for those aged 10-14 years. These records are concerning as emotional disorders can negatively impact children’s academic performance, social life and at worse; they can lead to suicide, which happens to be the fourth leading cause of death for those aged 15-19 years (WHO, 2020). Self-harming tendencies were also the reason behind 62 000 adolescent deaths  in 2016, according to WHO’s reports. Kids at this age may also develop physical symptoms that are based on their emotional distress, such as stomach ache, headache or nausea.

    On the other hand, childhood behavioural disorders commonly include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – which is characterised by having difficulty in paying attention and in staying still, as well as conduct disorder – whereby individuals experience symptoms of destructive behaviours. Examples of such risk-taking behaviours include substance abuse, sexual activities, heavy episodic drinking and resorting to violence. Besides affecting children and adolescents’ education, these disorders may also lead to criminal behaviour in adulthood. WHO (2020) records childhood behavioural disorders as the second leading cause of disease burden among adolescents aged 10-14 years, and the eleventh cause for those aged 15-19 years.

    As for developmental disorders, a well-known example would be autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which often appears in children before the age of 3 and can last throughout a lifetime – as noted by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Kids with ASD usually experience troubles with their social communication and interaction skills, such as lack of eye contact, lack of facial expressions and lack of understanding about emotions; be it their own or other people’s (CDC, 2021).

    Another form of mental illness that tends to emerge during teenage years are eating disorders, which is seen more commonly in females than males. These disorders include conditions such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. Some of the characteristics of their harmful eating behaviours involve extreme restriction of calories and binge eating. It is common that eating disorders exist alongside adolescents with depression, anxiety and or substance misuse.

    For children and adolescents who have faced some form of trauma such as sexual abuse, surviving a disaster, or being a victim of severe bullying, it is common for them to acquire post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When extreme stress from such events is prolonged for more than a month, this can disrupt the daily functioning of the child’s life. One can also struggle with PTSD if they witness trauma being inflicted upon someone else. The symptoms of PTSD may include the experience of recurring nightmares, intense ongoing fear and lack of positive emotions (CDC, 2021).

    Do children suffer from mental health issues?

    a. Yes, mental health issues can happen to anyone regardless of their age. Childhood and adolescence are highly significant stages in a person’s life for cognitive and socio-emotional development; thus, children’s exposure to early negative experiences can be damaging to their mental well-being in the long run. This includes situations such as domestic abuse, being bullied at school, harassment on digital platforms, poverty and more.

    b. The most common types of mental illness in children are generalised anxiety disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and mood disorders like depression. Eating disorders, substance-use disorders and bipolar disorders occur more frequently in teens than in children.

    c. According to WHO, 10% of children and adolescents struggle with a mental disorder; however, most of them do not seek help or receive professional care. International data also conveys suicide as the third most common cause of death in 15 to 19 year olds.

    d. The pandemic has worsened the circumstances for children’s mental welfare. UNICEF Malaysia reported that out of 266 suicide cases that happened between 18th March and 30th October in 2020; one in four of those cases had been committed by 15 to 18 year old teenagers.

    What are the warning signs I need to look out for?

    a. The symptoms of children’s mental illness are dependent on their particular disorder, but they may also exhibit some other common signs that can be easy to observe, such as :

    i. Behavioural problems (noncompliance, aggression, engaging in risk-taking behaviours such as substance abuse etc.)

    ii. Loss of interest in favourite activities

    iii. Increased crying, irritability and or anger

    iv. Loss of self-esteem

    v. Poor academic performance

    vi. Frequent complaints of physical pains such as stomachaches and headaches

    vii. Sleeping problems

    viii. Lack of appetite

    ix. Regressive behaviours (bed-wetting, throwing tantrums etc.)

    x. Persistent boredom

    xi. Social isolation

    xii. Words or behaviours that indicate suicidal thoughts

    b. The presence of these signs do not determine whether one has mental illness, but it is necessary to further investigate them just to be safe.

    c. There are times when the warning signs aren’t as clear-cut and the children may seem completely fine on the outside. If you fear that a child or teen you know is at risk of emotional distress and may struggle with a mental illness, urge them to seek help at a crisis line like BuddyBear. As parents and caretakers, you can also refer to other resources such as psychologists, mental health workers, school counsellors, social workers and more.