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Learned Helplessness and Hopelessness - Psychology of Learning Group Assignment

Eradicating Ignorance And Stigma Associated With Mental Health Through Propagated
Awareness On Learned Helplessness and Hopelessness
Maria Magdalene Klug (SCKD 1800363)
Osman Maryam (SCKD1800338)
Mennatullah Mohamed (SCKD1800451)
Lim Wei Yang (SCKD1800351)
Andrea Chan Yan Wen (SCKD1503269)
Nabilah Farhanah Binti Mohd Azman (SCKD 1800491)
Faculty of American Degree Programme, Troy University
PSY3340: Psychology of Learning
Dr Meg Milligan
4 April 2021
Summary (Nabilah Farhanah)
The target group of this research study is youth, ages between 15 and 24 years old. Youth
is taken as the target group since self-discovery is at a peak as well as various research studies
have shown that young people are vulnerable to experience mental health issues. The
implementation will be in areas and spaces where these age groups are typically found such as at
schools, universities and social media platforms. This study is designed based on other
psychologically progressive countries that have managed to successfully deal with mental health
Key points that are taken into consideration are analyzing the systems these countries have
put in place, procedures as well as protocols abided by and the tactical awareness methods and
strategies that are employed. This research paper aims to look into that direction and propose
interventions and strategies related to learned helplessness and hopelessness that can be introduced
to the population in Malaysia.
Introduction (Mennatullah)
Helplessness refers to the state where there is nothing an individual could do to change a
certain situation. Learned helplessness on the other hand is a phenomenon observed in animals and
humans where they are continuously conditioned to experience negative and unmanageable
situations in which they could not escape and ultimately demonstrate quitting responses they
concluded from the belief that whatever they did will not matter. Even though there are
opportunities of escaping being presented, this phenomenon will eventually prevent the individual
from taking any action (Cherry, 2020).
The learned helplessness theory was first founded by American psychologists Martin
Seligman and Steven Maier in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The researchers conducted
experiments on dogs and rats and their responses to electrical shocks. Both of the experiments
showed the same results where the animals in the control group (given no way of avoiding the
shocks), no longer attempted to avoid it despite having the opportunity to do so. None of these
experiments were conducted on humans due to its ferocity but one with similar context was done
in 1974, which had the same results as the previous experiments on the animals. (Ackerman, 2021).
Learned helplessness can happen to everyone and is often developed from childhood.
Children who received little to zero aid when they are in need of help could be left feeling that
they have no power to make change of their situation. Repetition in these experiences could result
in them developing anxiety and depression, as well as the mindset of being incapable of solving
every of their problems during adulthood (Cherry, 2020). As mentioned before, learned
helplessness could be the source of the feeling of anxiousness and could escalate to more severe
conditions such as the generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Individuals suffering from these
conditions would find their anxiousness untreatable or unavoidable and eventually gave up on
seeking help. However, learned helplessness could definitely be unlearned with the right method
and help from professionals. The most common treatment is the cognitive behavioral therapy
(CBT) where the clients are guided to explore the root and behaviors that encouraged their learned
helplessness. The clients will also receive support and help in improving their self-esteem, working
on replacing negative thoughts and feelings with positives as well as setting goals for themselves
(Leonard, 2019).
Moreover, various studies have been done to study the relationship between personality
traits and learned helplessness specifically by referring to the Big Five Personality Traits. As
mentioned in Cemalcilar, Sunar, & Canbeyli (2003), neuroticism has no effect in one’s
performance. This statement is supported by Elham & Nasrollah (2014) where the authors
explained that the relationship between the personality traits of neuroticism and learned
helplessness is inverse. This is because neurotic individuals tend to have unrealistic expectations
and ideas that prevent them from having a proper understanding of certain situations and their own
abilities. In contrast, the personality traits of agreeableness and learned helplessness has a direct
relation. This can be explained as individuals with high scores in agreeableness tend to measure
their own successes and failures according to other’s approvals. Thus, the feeling of helplessness
could arise from the constant need of others to analyze their own achievements (Elham &
Nasrollah, 2014).
Similarly, a direct relation could also be found in the personality traits of conscientiousness
and learned helplessness. According to Elham & Nasrollah (2014), individuals with high score in
conscientiousness are often goal-oriented and are confident in their own competence. Therefore,
if these individuals experience failures, they are quick to blame themselves as they believe in their
internal standards, which could lead to a negative self-perception and the sense of helplessness.
To conclude, learned helplessness can be learned, unlearned and a part of one’s personality traits.
According to the press statement by the Minister of Health Malaysia in 2016, the current
prevalence of mental health issues among the population of 16 years old and above is 29.2% and
is expected to significantly increase in the next ten years (Minister of Health Malaysia, 2016).
Professor Dr Ng Chong Guan, a consultant psychiatrist at University Malaya Specialist Centre
(UMSC) mentioned that the insufficient number of professionals in this industry also contributes
to the lack of awareness on mental health issues in Malaysia. Therefore, the main goal of this study
is to educate and enlighten the people of Malaysia on the topic of learned helplessness. As
mentioned above, this issue could be the root of other mental health problems, thus it is crucial to
prevent and eliminate the initial problem from escalating further. We also aim to help people live
a better life by realizing that the issues they are currently experiencing are completely treatable
with the correct methods, and ultimately could improve the reputation of psychology as well as
mental health issues in Malaysia.
Literature review (Nabilah Farhanah)
The concept of learned helplessness is a concept that focuses on the idea that it occurs after
an individual has experienced a stressful situation repeatedly in which this phenomenon can be
observed in both humans and animals. The idea behind this phenomenon is that when humans or
animals are constantly exposed and conditioned to expect pain, suffering or discomfort feelings or
situations without a means to escape it, it will eventually lead to a conditioned state. In the context
of humans, once this state is achieved it means that the individual will stop trying to avoid the pain
even when there is an opportunity to get out of the situation (Cherry, 2017). This is due to the fact
that individuals who experience learned helplessness begin to understand and believe that there is
lack or no control over what happens to the surroundings and one's own self. To which this causes
these individuals to think, feel and behave helpless.
According to Ackerman (2021), it is crucial to understand that learned helplessness can
occur to any individual in any setting and that it has a positive correlation with depression. Based
on a study that was conducted among 241 undergraduate students in Korea to understand the
factors that influence students to feel helpless, six independent variables which are external
entrapment, internal entrapment, social support, trait anger, state anger and anger expression were
included to predict learned helplessness. The results showed that perceived entrapment and social
support are two important predictors to predict learned helplessness among undergraduate students
(Choi & Cha, 2014) in which the results are aligned with Seligman’s learned helplessness theory
that explains the two types of this phenomenon which are universal helplessness and personal
According to this theory, universal helplessness can be characterized as a sense of
helplessness in which the individual may believe that nothing can be done to fix the situation which
includes the pain and discomfort feelings that the person is feeling. Different from universal
helplessness, personal helplessness focuses on the idea that it is a localized sense of helplessness.
This means the individual may hold a belief that others could solve the problem and even avoid
the pain or discomfort feelings and situation. To which it does not apply to the person, himself or
herself as the central idea of personal helplessness is incapability of solving a problem (Abramson,
Seligman, & Teasdale, 1978).
In a separate study that was conducted by Yates (2019) on 293 Australian students in grades
3 to 7 to examine student learned helplessness in mathematics as teachers frequently deal with
students who show signs of learned helplessness such as feeling discouraged, turned off, or have
completely given up to study mathematics, found that students’ reaction to failure and lack of
motivation are the two contributing factors that lead to feeling helpless in learning mathematics.
Based on the findings of this research study, it shows that students’ perception is crucial in
determining the competency level of students and this has been found to be important for students
to adapt to the classroom environment.
This is because interpreting failure is one of the signs of academic incompetence and in the
long term it will eventually lead to serious issues such as depression (Yates, 2009) in which
according to the statistics of the National Network of Depression Centers (NNDC), depression is
the leading factor of disability in America ranges from aged 15 to 44 and that it is the common
health problem for college students with more than 39% university students have felt depressed
and find difficult to function properly (Ackerman, 2021).
The findings of the study that was conducted among Australian schoolers are aligned with
the findings of a study that was conducted among 60 Malaysian university students to study on
academic procrastination. Data from this research study shows that procrastination occurs when
perception of one self is vulnerable and helpless in finishing the tasks that are given. According to
this study, 70% to 90% of university students engage in this behaviour when it comes to academic
tasks which results in academic delays and this leads to significantly lower CGPA. The findings
showed that academic procrastination occurs when individuals predict the outcome of the results
based on the perception that is formed by these individuals on how others perceive them to be.
Which means, students who are chronic procrastinators would engage in this behaviour based on
the belief that educators expect them to be incapable of producing good results and perform
academically well. Thus, these students will view themselves as academically helpless and
continue to procrastinate (Prihadi, Tan, Yong, Tinagaran, Goh, Yu, 2018).
Based on the findings of all these studies, it supports the argument that learned helplessness
is not an innate trait. This is because, no individual is born believing that there is no control over
what happens in life and it is pointless to try gaining control as learned helplessness can be
unlearned (Ackerman, 2021) in which this comes hand in hand from every party such as the
government, society and family support. For instance, Switzerland government created a policy
focusing on mental health that allows independent and private health insurance companies to
compete on price and services that are covered in the plan but with a comprehensive package that
includes essential minimum benefits. What this produces is keeping mental health care costs in
check for the people as prices that are offered by private mental health care providers could be
overwhelming for people to pay, thus, stopping individuals who are in need of professional help
to reach out in regards to mental health (Schneeberger & Schwartz, 2017).
Not only that, the Swiss Mental Health Care policy model focuses on providing an
appropriate number of psychiatric and psychology facilities as well as enough mental health care
providers to ensure the waiting period is reduced while maintaining affordable health care.
However, Malaysia on the other hand has a limited access to mental health services. According to
Othman, Tan and Ng (2019), mental health problems in Malaysia increased by 50% over the last
20 years and has at least affected 30% to 40% of the adult population while the youth aged 16 to
24 years are at risk of developing mental health problems.
According to this data, the youth population particularly from the low-income and
indigenous backgrounds show increased vulnerability to feeling helpless in regards to the future,
in which this has a positive correlation with socioeconomic status and the availability of mental
health services. One of the major reasons that stop Malaysians from seeking professional help in
regards to mental health is because it is limited and expensive along with the negative perception
and stigma of seeking for mental health help in this country (Othman, Tan & Ng, 2019). To which,
community support is important and needed in order to help individuals who deal with learned
helplessness or other mental health conditions that come along with it.
This can be supported by the study that was conducted by Norhayati, Aisyah, Ching, and
Suzana (2019) to study the effectiveness of a depression literacy program among 101 adolescents
who come from the low-income families for three months. In which the findings revealed that
although the stigma related to depression decreased as the participants have better understanding
and knowledge in regards to depression and the willingness to seek for mental health increased,
however, the stigma towards individuals who have other kinds of mental health remain stagnant.
Thus, the findings showed that community support programs are important to be implemented in
this country as there are many circumstances in regards to mental health and depression is not the
only thing that is associated with mental health as learned helplessness can lead to other kinds of
mental health conditions, not necessarily depression only. For instance, post-traumatic and anxiety
disorder are heavily linked with learned helplessness (Legg, 2019).
However, community support groups or programs are not popular and well accepted in
Malaysia although there are more NGO groups that provide free listening and counselling services
such as Befrienders. This is because, coming out with a mental health condition is still considered
a taboo topic in Malaysia and the criminalisation of suicide in this country makes it worse as
parents and society views mental health as a crime. According to Malaysian law, individuals who
attempt suicide will be charged under Section 309 and there is no indication that the individual
will be referred for medical or psychological care during or after sentencing as these individuals
are considered as criminals according to this law. Thus, having a law that punishes and criminalises
suicide may discourage Malaysians to seek for help in regards to mental health. To which
unconsciously, this makes Malaysians to have a negative perception towards Psychology in
general (Aziff & Idlan, 2019).
Research Design (Osman Maryam)
Target group
Several studies pertaining to this topic have yielded similar results that state both humans and
animals alike believe when continuously afflicted with emotionally and mentally destabilizing
events, their outcomes will be independent of their actions therefore there would be no point in
attempting to change or react to the situation. American psychologist M. E. Seligman developed a
theory that stated that learned helplessness as a phenomenon comprises five issues which are
nature, etiology, generalization, individual differences, and alleviation. Therefore, in this case it is
imperative to take these into consideration when approaching either treatment plans or the degree
to which different groups of individuals are affected.
As per the issues which were stated by Seligman, the nature of the phenomenon is to be taken
into context as well as etiology and generalization, which means the causation of the condition in
addition to examining the tendency of different individuals to respond to stimuli that are similar
to the original conditioned stimulus. In this case, the most notable groups are the ones that will be
delved into as below.
· Since the biological and psychological aspects of an individual are considered the most
vulnerable components of them, it is not therefore farfetched to reason that individuals
who are going through notable physical changes such as transitioning from childhood
to adolescence and from adolescence to adulthood therefore from the ages of 13 to 25
would be drastically affected by the condition. According to the Harvard Medical
school, the explanations for teenage turmoil are innumerable and one of them is that
the adolescent brain manufactures a plethora of hormones such as sex hormones,
adrenal stress hormones, and growth hormones, which in turn greatly impact brain
development. Testosterone production increases tenfold and this in turn impacts the
teenage brain (Harvard Health Publishing, 2020). Additionally, this group consists of
students who are still navigating their academic life and the obstacles found therein can
be so crippling that it leads to a convoluted process of continuous failure because of
several factors such as lack of comprehension, performance pressure that they fall short
of, dealing with issues in the domicile. They might feel changes that are unexplainable,
and the surge of hormones might further create an overwhelming feeling of despair,
losing heart and feeling unable to effectively execute day to day tasks.
· Individuals from environments which are characterized by financial, mental, and
emotional instability in the form of abuse, violence, extreme poverty, civil war, and
other factors that can be considered as destabilizing and debilitating to an individual.
· Individuals prone to depression and anxiety since these conditions are proven to severely
impair one’s outlook by negatively influencing perceptions.
Research sample (Osman Maryam)
This research study is designed to be implemented in a few areas which are in schools,
workplaces and sheltering areas for refugees, homeless and victims of abuse in any of its forms,
based on countries that have implemented the program before and found successful.
Every treatment or therapy is designed specifically to reach out to the group that requires
it the most depending on several factors, one of which is severity of the situation. Experimental
studies carried out by Turkish based researchers Cemalcilar, Z., Canbeyli, R., & Sunar, D. (2003)
have investigated therapy techniques that can be applied to the remedying of the condition, one of
which was the role of personality characteristics in both helplessness induction and therapy. They
believed that the therapy had to be tailored to the personality type of the client. Indeed, that is one
way to implement the therapeutic process, however a more universal approach would be more apt
and time efficient. And this would be a psychological intervention.
Psychological interventions are best suited to situations where there is a stunt in individual
development and will enable one to adapt to a myriad of circumstances that are damaging to one’s
emotional and mental state and in addition to that regain command of their internal locus of control.
In particular, the strategy that will be employed is the Cognitive Behavioral Strategy which
comprises psychosocial therapy techniques such as talk therapy. There are strengths that are
exhibited by the fundamental principles upon which the theory is based such as empathy, family
dynamic and its influence on the self as well as emphasis on social interests amongst others.
Developed as well as developing countries have increasingly employed CBT strategies in
several spheres of their communal setup. In the west, it is not unusual for schools, workplaces, and
community centers to provide counselling services that enable one to cope with the pressures and
tensions that arise within these domains. The society is aimed at elevating and preserving one’s
state of emotional and mental well-being by providing a healthy and holistic release of the
challenges individuals face. In developing countries however, a plethora of cultural values and
ideals govern the employment of therapy. In Asia, there is a certain stoicism required of children
and adults, rather than express their feelings, thoughts and emotions, individuals are taught to bury
and internalize them because manifestations of intangible and invisible distress are not given
enough credence.
Talk therapy comprises a range of treatments such as motivational counseling, group counseling
and humanist therapy, however, most prominent are CBT and psychoanalysis. The main mode of
treatment is extended periods of discourse between a counsellor and client.
Through this, the counsellor will get a thorough insight into the stressors that dominate one’s
emotional and mental state thereby causing them to act or react in a certain manner, their thoughts
and feelings and the severity of their condition.
The effectiveness in these techniques lies in the approach they take to modify one is already
altered perception from negative to positive, furthermore they are best suited to trauma intense
subjects such as the above-mentioned groups by promoting a better adaptation of the individual to
a given situation and thereby enabling one to optimize one’s personal resources in relation to selfsupport, autonomy, and self-knowledge. Essentially, these methods are all aimed at achieving one
effect, and that is to effect a personal change leading to an evolved ability in functionality.
By applying this approach, counsellors will create a focal point around the altering of the
individual’s perception to grow exponentially in all spheres of their lives, regardless of their age
group or cultural background. The flexibility of this approach allows it to be applied to a wide
array of individuals in a holistic manner which will enable one to better their intrapersonal as well
as interpersonal skills and regain control over their reaction to situational events.
One of its most outstanding strengths is its focus on reorienting an individual through
enabling and emphasizing growth to transition them into society and communal life by employing
new insights to alter past responses to situations and gain new perspectives on said situations. This
holistic approach to re-initiating the individual to society ensures that their growth process is
continuous and unhampered and is an empathetic and compassionate way of dealing with
emotional and mental challenges faced by clients.
By and large, talk therapy is one that could be argued to be truly phenomenological because of the
purpose with which it approaches situations. With an aim to reassure and inspirit individuals, with
an objectivity that dismisses the notion that we are predisposed to anything and our situations are
permanent, therefore creating a safe space for everyone to receive the emotional and mental help
they need in the most appropriate manner.
Psychology of Learning techniques (Osman Maryam)
1. Token Economy
Even though the focal point of the treatments to be implemented and utilized has been talk
therapies, it is important to explore other avenues of therapy such as the token economy. The token
economy is a type of behavioural modification system that revolves around the principles of
operant conditioning. Briefly, operant conditioning is based upon a simple theory that states any
behavior that is succeeded by a gratifying effect or reaction is more likely to be sustained by an
individual, and the reverse is true. Behavior and environmental stimuli are studied to understand
the effects one has upon the other and the resultant effects when one is manipulated. The concept
of token economy systems is not entirely new and has existed for centuries whether in one form
or other, the difference is in the way it is practiced today compared to the way it was in the past.
2. Reward system
The reward system is not solely based on tangible materials but consists of services as well
as esteem inflating rewards such as titles and status. Every structure of society employs this system,
from government in the form of rewarding soldiers with ranks to the grassroots such as the home
where the individual that washes the dishes receives a gift of sorts. The influencing ability of the
reward system can be used in any setting and in the case of individuals afflicted with learned
helplessness it is no different.
However, the reward can be re-casted to suit the situation, for example, when dealing with
a case where the individual has been disappointed time and again by the collective and actively
isolates themselves to the point, they are not willing to engage in societal activities, they can be
slowly reoriented by application of this therapy with a reward such as a ticket to the movies, a
group activity in nature or a trip to a museum for every milestone achieved. This positively
reinforces the behavior they are displaying and encouraging them to keep at it. These rewards will
slowly taper out as the behavior is reinforced more and more and the individual progress shows
that they are independent of the therapy.
Implementation (Lim Wei Yang)
The Malaysia Health Ministry department published a statistics report in 2016 which stated
that there is an increase in mental health issues, and the department suggested that workplaces and
schools are the key environments that the mental health community should pay attention to
(Hassan, Mohd Hassan, Kassim & Hamzah, 2018). Additionally, the researchers found that mental
health literacy of Malaysian is relatively low, and this is because of insufficient exposure of mental
health in mass media, (Hassan, Mohd Hassan, Kassim & Hamzah, 2018). Thus, the study will
carry out an experiment by exposing individuals with mental health knowledge regarding learned
helplessness and hopelessness to enhance mental health literacy and promote mental health
resources. This idea is supported by research studies which improve mental health literacy will
promote and maintain good health, (Bull et al., 1997; Loo & Furnham, 2012, as cited in Hassan,
Mohd Hassan, Kassim & Hamzah, 2018).
Furthermore, researchers suggested that “immunization training” can help individual in
producing resilience in facing difficulties, in which this will enable individuals to learn to be
indefatigable (Eisenberger, 1992; Eisenberger & Cameron, 1996; Eisenberger, Masterson, &
McDermott, 1982; Volpicelli et al., 1983, as cited in Chance, 2014). Thus, the study reckons that
by introducing knowledge regarding learned helplessness and hopelessness will help individuals
to learn to be indefatigable when facing mental health problems. To illustrate, the individuals will
acquire knowledge about learned helplessness and hopelessness, therefore, they may understand
the importance of seeking for mental health assistance and may acquire learned industriousness
which leads these individuals to be exposed to mental health resources in Malaysia.
Ultimately, the study reckons that this will eventually improve the reputation of mental
health in Malaysia. For instance, individuals who are exposed to mental health knowledge such as
the consequence of learned helplessness will take initiative like enrolling counselling courses to
help people around them (Lee, 2021). Furthermore, some studies proposed that Malaysia has
insufficient mental health professionals and patients will encounter long waiting times, (CodeBlue,
2020; Loong, 2019; Mohamed, 2019). Thus, improving the reputation of mental health in Malaysia
is an important topic to be discussed.
Generally, there are three goals this study wants to achieve via the implementations
including helping publics in Malaysia increase mental health literacy which are helping publics to
understand the concept of learned helplessness and hopelessness and to enable them to develop
learned industriousness or resilience, and ultimately, improve the reputation of mental health in
Malaysia. In the next part of this paper, there will be few strategies that will be implemented in
this study in regards to interventions revolving around cognitive behavioural concepts and
observational learning.
Strategies (Lim Wei Yang)
The first strategy is to create campaigns and talk shows which expose concepts regarding
learned helplessness and hopelessness and cognitive behavioural approach. Thus, the study
reckons that individuals will understand uncontrollability and noncontingent outcomes can be
resolved and they are motivated to seek for mental health resources. Ultimately, this will
eventually improve the reputation of mental health in Malaysia via increasing mental health
literacy. Researchers proposed that teaching individuals to understand changing in thoughts and
actions will improve motivation to seek help when encountering stressors, (Chance, 2014).
Additionally, Singapore mental health communities were encouraged to hold campaigns
and conferences in improving mental health knowledge or mental health literacy, (Tan, 2020). The
efficacy of the campaign is supported by the statistics of the community health assessment team
of Singapore addressing that there was an increment of referral and conducted assessment by years,
(Goh, 2020). Thus, the study reckons this intervention strategy had increased reputation and
awareness of mental health. Conclusively, Malaysia should carry out intervention that resembles
this intervention.
The next strategy is for the government to collaborate with some major mass media in
creating drama or short videos in different languages. The drama will be conveying a message
about diverse mental health resources available in Malaysia. For instance, the script will include
actors with mental health problems who find reliable mental health resources that are available in
Malaysia. This intervention was executed in Singapore and was found effective in increasing
mental health awareness, (Fernando, 2010). For instance, the Singapore government and mental
health community proposed that enrolment of courses in counselling had increased 43%, (Lee,
2021). Moreover, this intervention strategy is to improve mental health literacy and associate
mental health problems with positive image. Individuals who are exposed to the drama will have
a positive image towards mental health disorders that it can be treated, and the public will be able
to observe and learn knowledge regarding mental health.
Research studies proposed that incorporating positive emotion with information will attract
people as pleasant items associated with neutral stimuli will encourage better and more accurate
recall, (Chance, 2014; Farmer & Matlin, 2019). Additionally, social learning theory proposed that
learning will occur not only via direct experience, but also through observation. Thus, mass media
like TV plays a vital role in increasing mental health literacy as it is a source to obtain information
about behaviours, and enhance individuals beliefs in mental health problems can be resolved,
(Chance, 2014). Ultimately, the reputation of mental health will theoretically improve via
observational learning.
The last intervention strategy is for the government to utilize social media platforms such
as Tik Tok in improving mental health reputation. For instance, the government can encourage Tik
Tok users to create content regarding mental health awareness with topics such as how individuals
who face uncontrollability in the workplace resolve their struggles in a positive manner. Provincial
Health Community in China utilized Tik Tok to communicate with local citizens especially youth
and to spread available mental health resources, (Zhu et al., 2020).
Recent studies addressed that young generations prefer to acquire knowledge via video
content rather than written one, (Berry et al., 2019; Zhu et al., 2020). Thus, this study reckons that
youth who utilize social media platforms most of the time will be able to utilize knowledge such
as mental health and this will help youth to have an idea on how to tackle mental health issues
when they personally experience it or when it occurs to other individuals in close proximity.
Ultimately, these intervention strategies aim to increase the reputation of mental health via
observational learning and history reinforcement. These interventions mainly revolve with
utilization of mass media such as television and social media platforms and are supported by
theoretical and practical research studies.
Pilot study (Lim Wei Yang)
A pilot study will be conducted before conducting the actual research in order to evaluate
the convenience, duration as well as to improve the research study. This pilot study will be done
in a smaller scale of participants of 100 university students to identify the cause and effect of
understanding learned helplessness and hopelessness on reputation or awareness of mental health.
This study is designed to be an experimental study in which the independent variable will
be understanding learned helplessness and hopelessness which has four levels (e.g., watching
interesting videos regarding learned helplessness, watching neutral video regarding learned
helplessness, not watching any video). The dependent variable will be the responses of participants
in the survey whether these individuals feel more aware about mental health problems and the
responses given; will or will not initiate to find available mental health resources in Malaysia. This
study will take into consideration the few confounding variables that may have an effect on this
study which are the personality of the participants, previous knowledge about mental health and
ongoing stressful events.
This study will be focusing on university students in Malaysia since students is one of the key
communities that was reported vulnerable to mental health problems, (Hassan, Mohd Hassan,
Kassim & Hamzah, 2018; Tan, 2020). The selected sample will be randomly assigned into 4
groups (e.g., control group, experimental group 1, experimental group 2 and experimental group
3) which each group contains 25 university students.
Measurement (Andrea Chan)
In this research, a pretest-posttest design is established to measure the effects of the
interventions, that is measurement prior the interventions and after the interventions. The public
perception questionnaire of psychologist profession (PPQPP), learned helplessness scale (LHS)
will be given to the participants both prior and after the interventions. Another set of questions
about participants’ experiences on their designated intervention will be provided after the
PPQPP is a questionnaire developed by Poci (2014) to measure people’s perception about
psychology professions. This questionnaire will be used to indicate the reputation of psychology
before and after the interventions. The questionnaire consists of three categories, which are
demographic information, 50 items with choices of uncertainty, disagree and agree, and 11 closed
ended questions on the association with psychologists. In addition, the questionnaire also inquired
about which platforms shape participants' perspectives about psychologists.
LHS developed by Quinless and Nelson (1988) is a questionnaire that measures the level
of learned helplessness in participants and therefore, determining the effectiveness of
interventions. This 4-point Likert scale consisted of 20 items ranging from strongly agree (1) to
strongly disagree (4). Results will be displayed in terms of lowest points ranging from 20
indicating lower level of learned helplessness to highest points of 80 demonstrating higher level
of learned helplessness.
Participants will also be given a series of open-ended questions relating to their experiences
during the research. These questions are applied in order to facilitate qualitative research that might
enhance clarification of the outcomes. These questions contain (a) their thoughts on the concept
on learned helplessness; (b) their opinions on the methods of changing thoughts and behaviors in
order to overcome learned helplessness; (c) whether public efforts to address learned helplessness
are impactful implementation; (d) whether creating contents in social media regards to create
mental health awareness motivate participants and viewers; (e) the effectiveness of the
interventions and any problems they encountered during the intervention; and (f) their feelings on
participating the research.
Data analysis (Andrea Chan)
This research will be using multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) to test multiple
independent variables (cognitive behavioral therapy, observational learning, and observational
learning with reinforcement) with multiple dependent variables (reputation of psychology in
Malaysia and effectiveness of interventions in reducing learned helplessness in participants). This
study applies between-subject design whereby each participant is subjected to only one
experimental condition, which is suitable to analyze data using MONOVA. MANOVA considers
numerous dependent variables and organizes them into a composite variable (Statistics Solutions,
n. d.). The dependent variables are correlated which allow for evaluation and identification of
features between multiple dependent variables simultaneously in this research. Other assumptions
of using MANOVA include the study has homogeneity of variance, multivariate normality, and
linear association between the dependent variables with every independent variable.
Recommendation (Maria Klug)
From the research study above, a proactive approach is essential to spread awareness on
the consequences of learned helplessness, and learned helplessness, in order to eradicate the
existing stigmas that are associated with mental health.
A prominent method to achieve the goal to improve mental health literacy in Malaysia
could be to encourage the government to allocate specific funds for the R&D of Psychology field
to research universities in Malaysia so some more concepts or ideas can be introduced to the nation
etc. Unfortunately, it has been established that mental health concerns are not prioritized in the
country. According to the Harvard and the Health Ministry (2016), the Malaysian Health System
Research Study discovered that 1.3 percent of government funding went towards the budget of
mental health. This is less than half of what is spent by the international average, which stands at
2.8 percent. This research demonstrated that the stigma associated with mental health influences
the decision-making process of political figures. The consequences of fewer fundings are
prevalent, as the specialist and resources within the mental health industry are limited.
Increased funding can enhance not only the research discoveries but the public perception
towards mental health issues and the resources to seek treatment. For instance, recent research
studies on psilocybin, which is a compound found in magic mushrooms have been found to reset
the connectivity tissue in the brain, thus providing some benefits to treating mental health problems
such as depression. According to Comier (2020), a state in America had legalized the therapeutic
use of these mushrooms due to the numerous positive effects had on mental health patients.
Appropriate fundings and support from the government enabled more research to be conducted
which ultimately lead to exceptional discoveries in treating mental illness and beneficial uses of
modern “street dugs” around the world.
Another recommendation would be to encourage the involvement of Non-Governmental
Organizations (NGOs) in Malaysia with existing psychological aspects in society. This includes
working with activities such as treatment, rehabilitation centers, and care facilities towards a
variety of sectors such as substance abuse, and psychotic conditions, and more. By doing so, large
movements from these organizations across the country can help educate and alter the perception
of psychological challenges, as well as build a sense of unity with the public. According to Thara
and Patel (2010), the active involvement of NGOs in India regarding the mental health industry
had increased the treatment resources within the country.
As more people take action and spread awareness on such topics, while cooperating to
make a change within their society, these activities will stimulate the change in the general
perception towards mental health. NGOs can initiate a change in in-laws as the need for the
demand will act as an added pressure to the government to generate better policies to take
psychology into considerations for existing issues in the country. Piotrowicz & Cainciara (2013)
stated that NGOs are essential in creating health care policies, as increased social services require
quality assessments, and monitoring to ensure the credibility of their organizations.
Finally, the government must establish psychology-involved policies and procedures for
the general population to follow. The stigma associated with mental health in Malaysia is high,
and only in recent years, the youth have been more accepting in recognizing the reality and
importance of having a healthy mental state. However, the government can positively influence
this by implementing policies to provide affordable, accessible mental health treatments, and
exposure to this issue to the schooling system. For instance, Switzerland provides one of the best
health care systems in the world, in terms of mental health. This achievement is mainly due to its
involvement in the government policy. According to Schneeberger and Schwartz (2017), the cost
and services for mental health treatments are closely regulated by the government policies, which
ultimately lead to affordable yet efficient assistance to the general public in both private and public
sectors. This alignance from the government of Switzerland directly influences the state, the
perception, and the understanding of mental health, in the country.
Next, in order to alter the perception of the public, the government should start by
modifying the current education system by taking psychology as an emphasized topic of
educational conversation for the new generation. By implementing psychology subjects in schools,
creates a positive environment for questioning, and understanding, as children are exposed to the
concept of mental health from a young age. According to Solhaug et al. (2016), being more
conscious of your thoughts influences attitudes such as curiosity, impacts tolerance, increases selfacceptance, and more. Ultimately, this will create a new generation of youth that will be more
aware, accepting, and proactive in recognizing and overcoming issues of learned helplessness.
Conclusion (Mennatullah)
The concept of mental health is fairly new and it is under researched in Malaysia, in
comparison to other countries. Naturally, more effort is required to learn and adopt past procedures
implemented by more developed countries in order to improve the issue at hand. It is important to
ensure there is a constant exposure of knowledge involving learned helplessness, as such
information will directly increase proactive behaviour to seek counselling courses to overcome the
issue. It plays a large impact on the society as a whole, as minor implementations to the public to
increase awareness, will lead to a greater number of individuals to pursue a career in this field.
This can positively impact the industry of the country, and encourage the growth of the mental
health professions in Malaysia.
Overall, a positive way to diminish the stigma, and reeducate the public on mental health
towards the learned helpless, are by increasing research funds, collaborating with NGOs in
establishing psychological facilities, and improving new policies in regards to the education
system. To elaborate, increasing the R&D funds for psychological research, might in hopes
stimulate new impactful findings that can alter the preconceived notion of mental health in the
More NGOs activities in psychological aspects can help add pressure to the government to
make more essential changes for the country, and educating the young on the awareness of their
thoughts and ideas can improve the mental health literacy of public, encourage understanding of
the concept of learned helplessness and hopelessness, as well as improve the reputation of mental
health in the country.
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