PETALING JAYA: Mental health issues must be addressed and an alert system to notify concerned parties of suicidal postings on social media must be developed, says Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye following the apparent suicide of a teenager in Sarawak.
The Malaysia Psychiatric Association patron said an awareness campaign on mental health, including the stigma of mental illness, must be organised.
“The government must train more counsellors and psychologists to help those suffering from depression and other mental problems,” he said in a statement Wednesday (May 15).
Lee's statement came in the wake of the death of a 16-year-old girl in Sarawak who apparently committed suicide after 69% of pollsters on her Instagram account supported the decision for her to kill herself via a voting poll.
It was reported that the teenager fell from the third floor of a shop-lot.
Prior to her death, she uploaded a post with the headline “Really Important, Help Me Choose D/L (die or live)” in a poll she ran on Instagram.
Lee said the incident revealed the low awareness of mental health issues in the country.
He added that there was a need for a holistic public health approach that took into consideration cross-sectoral collaboration and the training of non-governmental organisations to address the factors contributing to poor mental health.
He said the health, education, as well as the youth and sports ministries must collaborate to help address mental health issues among children, adolescents and youth.
According to Lee, the relevant agencies must also develop an alert system to enable people to notify concerned parties of suicidal postings on social media.
“In the case of this latest incident, it was five hours from the time of her suicidal posting till her suicidal act, and there was no alert system in place for intervention.
“For young people, mental immaturity may cause them to be easily influenced by online content, including games and social media.
“Those who have pre-existing emotional problems are more vulnerable and it is important to identify and help them in the early stage, and to refer them to a doctor or trained counsellor if their problems are hard to be solved or prolonged,” he said.
Lee added that the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2017 on mental health among youths revealed that one out of five adolescents feels depressed, two out of five feel anxious, while 11.2% have suicidal ideation and 10.1% had actually attempted suicide.
He said immediate action must be taken to tackle the problem as the World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that each year, approximately one million people die from suicide and by 2020 the rate of suicide will increase to one every 20 seconds.
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