Strengthening community support for those with poor mental health

Advocating for mental health can be as simple as gathering with your neighbours and asking them how they are doing. — Filepic

The Green Ribbon Group was launched recently on March 23 (2021).

It is a social enterprise that aims to give momentum to the mental health agenda in Malaysia.

One avenue that my team and I would like to specifically push for is the need to strengthen psychosocial support in communities.

This is not a new approach to mental healthcare.

The Health Ministry has worked tirelessly on this front since the early 2000s.

Its Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Services offers a helpline, psychological first aid and counselling.

I am also reminded of the ministry’s Let’s TALK Minda Sihat campaign that was launched on World Mental Health Day in October 2019.

It aims to encourage people to:

  • Tell someone about their problems
  • Ask for help
  • Listen without judgment, and
  • Know where to seek help.

Komuniti Sihat Perkasa Negara (Kospen), launched by the ministry, is another great example of how the youth can be agents of change in our mental health landscape.

We must always be mindful of the important role that communities play in fostering a sense of care and togetherness.

Boosting awareness and understanding the problems of mental health must be continuous.

Only then can we break the stigma associated with mental illness.

Responsibility of all

In my message to the World Federation for Mental Health in commemoration of World Mental Health Day 2020, I stressed that none of this is purely the government’s responsibility.

Mental health is simply the responsibility of all.

We must empathise with those suffering, as well as with their families.

We must uphold the basics of human interaction like face-to-face and emotional connections.

And we must do our part by keeping the momentum going on mental health awareness.

Indeed, mental health has featured heavily throughout the Covid-19 pandemic both here at home and abroad.

It should be part of our recovery in the “new normal”.

We are facing uncertain times.

And when we are faced with uncertainty, the onus is on each and every one of us to respond with kindness.

It is for this very reason that we must focus on strengthening the community approach to mental health.

Support and training

Support for those with lived experience and those who have attempted suicide should not end with family and friends.

It should also be extended to the wider community.

More importantly, we need to normalise the discussion surrounding mental health and suicide in the hope that those struggling will get the help and treatment that they need, rather than being shunned or judged harshly.

The Green Ribbon Group has produced some small and simple items that can help to boost community participation in raising awareness.

By wearing our pins, caps and t-shirts, you are automatically an advocate as well.

This is why we chose the international symbol for mental health as our logo.

We do not want to invent something new.

Instead, we would like to empower the good work that has already been done, and our contribution is to try and take it to new heights.

By wearing our merchandise, you are also supporting two initiatives that aim to strengthen psychosocial support in communities.

All proceeds and donations to the Green Ribbon Group will be used as seed money to help set up support groups nationwide, and to sponsor those willing to undertake the Mental Health First Aid course.

These initiatives will be conducted in collaboration with the Malaysian Mental Health Association (MMHA).

The support groups will be set up in states that currently do not have many or any at all, as it is often in these areas where awareness is low, and stigma and prejudice are high.

These groups will be led by persons with lived experience and their caregivers.

They could also be based in hospital psychiatric units to help strengthen resources and enable members to work alongside mental health professionals.

MMHA will be facilitating participation in the Family Link Education Programme to better understand mental illness, crisis intervention, hope for recovery and advocacy.

Meanwhile, the Mental Health First Aid training will be organised by MMHA for any interested adult who is willing to learn how to support those who are developing mental health problems (such as depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and self-harm, substance abuse, and eating disorders), as well as those experiencing a mental health crisis (such as panic attacks, psychosis, aggressive behaviours, and effects from alcohol and drug abuse).

The Green Ribbon Group has always advocated for mental health to be part of our nation’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

For first respondents or those who are often the first point of contact, such as parents, teachers, nurses and general practitioners, as well as those involved in humanitarian or social work, if you are interested in this course, please visit the MMHA webpage or email

In this together

We feel that these initiatives are part and parcel of the grander scheme of things.

Slowly, but surely, we hope to help get rid of ignorance, prejudice and discrimination, in order to better support those with lived experience, as well as their caregivers (whom we tend to forget).

I hope that you will stay committed and continue to do your part in advocating for mental health, whether it be sharing knowledge, insights and experiences; empowering your peers and caregivers; or simply asking your neighbour, “How are you?”.

We have all experienced the pandemic together and have found consolation in knowing that each of us has been impacted by Covid-19 in some way.

We must also have the outlook that “we are all in this together” in our approach to mental health from now on.

Tengku Puteri Iman Afzan is the Royal Patron of the National Coalition of Mental Wellbeing and International Patron of World Mental Health Day 2020. For more information, email The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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Mental health , first aid , community


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