PETALING JAYA: People with suicidal tendencies need emotional engagement and practical support, says Dr Anasuya Jegathevi Jegathesan.
The psychiatrist said preventive measures were far more effective in dealing with mental health issues, and that it was important to help them build resilience by making them feel safe with a strong support system.
“When dealing with young people, it is important to be open. It is all right to feel bad or down. You don’t have to feel happy all the time.
“To help people through suicidal thoughts, we need to have a social structure, so people don’t feel alone,” she said in an interview.
Dr Anasuya, who is the psychology programme director at Taylor’s University, said suicidal thoughts usually come from feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.
“They may be suicidal, but not everyone wants to die. They may just want to end the pain. We have to create a system to reach out to these patients before they arrive at a crisis point,” she said.
A recent survey by international survey agency YouGov showed that almost a quarter of the 1,027 Malaysians polled have experienced suicidal thoughts, particularly youths.
Even more alarming is 26% of those surveyed admitted to self-harm with one in 10 Malaysian youths confessing to frequent self-harm practices.
It said Malaysians, aged between 18 and 24, tend to experience this more than those aged 55 and above.
Dr Anasuya said awareness of mental health among youths was increasing but the sensationalisation of the issue on media and society was not helping to address it.
Loh E Laine from Enrich Counselling & Therapy Centre in Puchong said among the factors which led to an increase in mental health issues among youths are rapid urbanisation, poverty, academic competition and high expectations, exposure to media at a young age and dysfunctional families.
UKM Medical Centre Psychiatry Department associate professor and consultant psychiatrist Dr Chan Lai Fong said social media could be a powerful tool to prevent suicides.
“Things may go wrong on social media but there are also opportunities for things to be done right.
“People with suicidal thoughts are often ambivalent about dying. It is a cry for help. We can learn how to recognise it and offer them alternative ways to cope with their pain,” said Dr Chan.
Pantai Hospital Penang Psychiatrist Dr Ng Yin Ping agreed, saying that social media should be used to empower users to come together to prevent suicide.
She also noted that stigma was often the reason why those troubled did not seek help.
“Most of them know they are in trouble but fear being judged. Disparaging remarks, especially on social media, can put someone off from seeking help.
“Resilience is all about being able to recognise that you have difficulties, get help and bounce back. It’s okay to get help,” she said.