PETALING JAYA: The Health Ministry needs to take serious steps to address growing concerns over mental health issues, says social activist Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.
Lee, who is patron of the Malaysia Psychiatric Association, suggested that insurance coverage be made available for mental healthcare and treatment.
"There is a need to initiate the subject. Such an initiative should come from the Health Ministry," he said, adding that such coverage had been offered in Singapore.
Lee also said NGOs supportive of mental health issues could play a role in explaining the need for insurance coverage for mental health problems by sending a memorandum to both the government and insurance association.
"Malaysians struggling with mental health problems must also come forward and stand up for their rights for insurance coverage, just like physical health," he said.
Lee also lauded the Health Ministry's support for better mental health by improving the country's mental health assessment system through programmes like Health Mind for secondary school students, as well as the Suicide Prevention Initiatives.
"Nevertheless more improvements are required, mainly through collaborative efforts among the communities and governmental and non-governmental agencies," he said in a statement on Wednesday (May 22).
Based on statistics from the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2015, Lee said about 4.2 million Malaysians aged 16 and above, or 29.2% of the population, suffered from various mental problems.
This was an increase of 11.2% compared to 2006.
Lee added a survey done in 2017 on mental health among youths also revealed that one of five adolescents felt depressed; two out of five felt anxious; 11.2% had suicidal ideas and 10.1% had attempted suicide.