Puan Anita Abu Bakar is the Founder and President of the Mental Illness Awareness & Support Association (MIASA), a Mental Health advocacy and peer support group based in Petaling Jaya. As Anita was born and raised overseas, she subsequently pursued her tertiary education in the United States. She obtained a Bachelor Degree in Computer Information Systems, with a minor in Management Information Systems. Upon her return to Malaysia, Anita pursued a career path as an investment banker, and worked in the corporate field for over 10 years. She also holds an MBA in Islamic Banking and Finance from the International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM)
Being a peer herself, Anita is an advocate in promoting awareness on mental health. She has conducted various programmes and initiated much effort to educate the public on both the importance of mental health, and addressing the many misconceptions and myths in hopes of reducing the society’s stigma and inducing the availability of more support for those struggling with psychological symptoms. One of her programmes under MIASA named Journey to Recovery and Kembara Syifa has aired in IKIM.FM, reaching out to those struggling with mental health disorders and caregivers.
Anita is also the Founder and Managing Director of Qaiser Darussalam Publications, which was founded in January 2013, subsequently gaining branch status by Darussalam Publications. In Ramadhan of 2013, Qaiser did a business take-over of IslamicKids media, and merged the two companies. In July 2013, Qaiser opened up its Islamic Academy offering Islamic classes for children, teenagers, adults, reverts and non-Muslims. Qaiser continues to strive in being a one-stop centre for the ummah.
Anita has been a guest speaker and panelist in many conferences and programmes such as the Good Practice Services : Promoting Human Rights & Recovery in Mental Health 2019 in Trieste, Italy where she presented on ‘No Restraint’, The Bali Plenary in Bali for TCI Asia Pacific presenting MIASA’s works and spirituality, the Symposium on Psycho-Social Disabilities for IIUM talking about ‘Stigma, Self-Harm and Suicidal Thoughts from the Islamic Perspective’, the International Asean & Psychology conference, the Malaysian Conference of Psychological Medicine, the International Muslim conference, BeingMe Islamic Conference, the Mentari Family Link programme including TCI Asia Pacific’s roundtable discussion, Pfizer Up John’s Hearts and Minds ASEAN NCD Connexions Roundtable in Bangkok, IYRES Technical Working Group where she led the Health team and more.
She has appeared on the Islam Channel UK Show, BernamaTV, Astro, NTV7, RTM, NXNow, Bernama Radio, Sinar, NST, Berita Harian, the Star and more. She is also a certified trainer for the Optimal Health programme (a recovery plan); a Malaysia-Australia collaboration, she is part of the Review Committee for the CPG for the management of Schizophrenia peers and has represented MIASA on discussions with the Ministry various areas of mental health, proposed ideas on projects in the community and was previously the Chairperson of the Board of Visitors for HUKM. She has also attended the NCD and UHC training by NCD Alliance Advocacy Institute, Quality Rights workshop, suicide gatekeeper training workshop, Mental Health Literacy training by WHO and more.
She has also spoken at many universities, corporations and government agencies across Malaysia including Perkeso, LPPKN, IKMAL, Halal Development Corp, MARDI, Petronas, Petra Energy, Bank Islam, Facebook Malaysia, Sime Darby Properties, Pfizer Upjohn, TNB, MHTC, MPKJ, Sunway, Segi, KUPTM, IIUM, UKM, HUKM, UPNM, UNIKL, IUMW, Semesti, MRSM Gemencheh, etc. During the Movement Control Order in 2020, she collaborated with various organisations and individuals (e.g. Pfizer Upjohn, Badan Perhubungan Melbourne, Selangor Government) to conduct live sessions on mental health inclusion, stigma, mental health post pandemic, and more with the passion of continuously amplifying the voices of individuals with lived experiences.
In December 2019, MIASA achieved another milestone for Malaysia by organizing the International Mental Health Recovery Conference 2019, which she spearheaded with the support of TCI Asia Pacific. This conference concluded with the Malaysian stakeholder meeting, which resulted in firm resolutions agreed upon by all present. Recently, MIASA became a pioneer in shaping the mental health ecosystem towards a recovery model approach by establishing the ‘The Orchid Clubhouse’, which serves as a crisis management and activity center made available for all.
In 2020, MIASA continued to work towards the goal of building a comprehensive mental health care system through various efforts and partnerships. Anita was appointed as the chairperson for the National Alliance of Mental Health (NAMH), with MIASA being assigned the role of Secretariat. Anita was appointed as the treasurer for Rumah Minda Ceria in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, which is an assisted accommodation and rehabilitation centre for mental health peers. Most recently, she was appointed as a moderator for the 2nd Asia Pacific Patients Congress.