"Based on the research conducted by our School of Psychology, 49.8 per cent of the 500 respondents from secondary schools in Kota Kinabalu, Tawau and Sandakan suffer from this problem," said its Vice Chancellor Dr Mohd Harun Abdullah.
Speaking after launching a three-day Southeast Asia Psychology (SEAP) 2012 Conference at UMS here, Wednesday, he urged the School of Psychology to focus on certain rural areas in Sabah and take it as a pioneer model to improve the psychological wellbeing of the local people.
"This should be the main contribution of the school to the indigenous community in Sabah," he added.
To a question, Dean of the School of Psychology and Social Work, Dr Murnizam Halik said: "Mild does not mean problems but rather refers to the potential of having mental issues.
"What we are trying to do through this study is to look at the mental issues as a whole, especially in Sabah," said Murnizam who is also SEAP 2012 Chairman.
"This means we identify potential symptoms of mental issues.
Mental issues do not mean one is crazyÉit could be caused by stress and depression among others," he said.
"The study would enable us to detect early signs of mental problems and suggest programmes which could increase their psychological well being.
To a question, he said, having discussions on mental issues among parents is not actually taboo but rather due to lack of knowledge.
However, mental problems in Sabah are still at an average level which is no cause for alarm.
"Sometimes, children coming home from school might be quiet and reserved but parents instead of asking what their problem was would start to think that their children have some other kind of problem," he said.
The School of Psychology, he said, provides free counseling to parents as part of their corporate social responsibility to the community conducted by their large pool of counselors comprising students undertaking their degree in the field.
Those interested may contact them at 088-320 000 ext. 8145 to make an appointment and arrange for counseling session with them.
Meanwhile, Dr Balan Rathakrishnan of UMS said based on their finding, one of the problems for stress among youths is that they have no place to express their stress in schools.
"Their counselors are also not trained and they don't know how to address the issue.
Schools are, therefore, encouraged to set up counseling services that are trained," he said.
He said about 25 per cent from those studied have moderate to high level stress and from their stress, they have an increased tendency to go into alcoholism and premature sex.
Towards this end, he said UMS would also be doing another study on baby dumping.
The on-going conference was organised by the School of Psychology and Social Work UMS in collaboration with the Malaysian Psychological Association, Asian Association of Indigenous and Cultural Psychology, Universitas Padjadjaran Indonesia and the Deakin University of Australia.