This podcast includes references to suicide.

These days, almost anyone you meet can talk about how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed their lives for the worse. Salary cuts or a total loss of income, separation from friends and family, and long periods of isolation. It is no surprise that this pandemic has taken a toll on our mental health.

But there are some groups who are not only more systematically vulnerable to mental illness, but have also suffered from a far more brutal experience than others. From heightened xenophobic sentiment, to being hunted down by the authorities during a nationwide lockdown and facing threats on social media, the refugee community in Malaysia have been forced to endure all of the same hardships as Malaysian citizens, plus an additional set of hardships stemming from their refugee status. Refugee mental health already received little attention or resources before the pandemic hit, so what kind of repercussions has COVID-19 had on this marginalised community?

In this episode, Deborah Augustin speaks to clinical psychologist Matilda Xavier and Bo Min Naing, president of the Rohingya Society in Malaysia. They talk about the stigma around mental health in the refugee community, how they have been coping with it during the pandemic, and how some communities are affected more than others.

If you are based in Malaysia and would like to speak to someone, you can contact:
Befrienders: 03-76272929, or email them at

For more information on Mentem Psychological Services, please click here.

Kelly Anissa

Kelly Anissa is a journalist based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She is New Naratif’s Bahasa Melayu/Malaysia Editor. Previously, Kelly worked as a producer and presenter at BFM 89.9, a Malaysian radio station for current affairs. She has done work on a wide range of areas, covering environmental issues, policy and legal reforms in Malaysia, regional politics and health journalism. Outside of work, Kelly works on short films. You can reach her at

Deborah Augustin

Deborah Germaine Augustin is a Malaysian writer and researcher. Previously, she worked as a Parliamentary Assistant for the MP of Kelana Jaya. She is currently working on a cross-genre chapbook about immigration in the United States. She is New Naratif's Member Engagement Coordinator. Reach her at

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