KLANG: It is time the Health Ministry seriously looks into mainstreaming and prioritising mental healthcare in the country, says Malaysian Mental Health Association (MMHA) president Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj.
He said it was crucial to give mental healthcare due importance and not regard it as a mere medical discipline.
“The first step would be to give it more prominence rather than just grouping it together with non-communicable diseases.
“The Health Ministry should seriously consider setting up a separate unit for mental health,’’ said Dr Mohanraj.
The consultant psychiatrist is making the plea in the wake of two separate incidents, the first of which saw a 36-year-old man falling to his death after jumping off a building in Kuala Lumpur last Thursday (Jan 3), while in the second, a 17-year-old student seriously injured herself after leaping off the fourth floor of her school building in Kedah on Monday (Jan 7).
Dr Mohanraj said Malaysia should emulate Thailand, which has a director-general for mental health, as well as Western Australia, which has a minister for mental health.
He added that many developed countries had come to the realisation that recognition of leadership in mental health was an important step towards mainstreaming it.
“MMHA hopes the present government would look into this seriously and perhaps ensure a representation for mental health organisations in the Dewan Negara to champion the need to propagate a sound mental healthcare system in the country," he said.
He added there was also a need to dispel the perception that mental illness was psychotic in nature and characterised by bizarre behaviour, as well as poor social and occupational functioning.
“Many people actually suffer silently and go unnoticed when battling with depression or anxiety. Most are normally functioning, successful people who suddenly decompensate because of a work-, financial- or relationship-related challenges,’’ said Dr Mohanraj.
According to him 90% of suicides were due to clinical depression, which can be triggered by various factors.
Given this, it was important for people to recognise the symptoms of depression and seek the necessary help, he said.