PETALING JAYA: People facing mild mental health issues should seek counselling from a doctor at a government health clinic or private clinic before seeing a psychiatrist at a public hospital, says Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad.
He said that this will help decongest the psychiatric service in public hospitals and allow major cases to be given the needed attention more quickly.
He added that mental health needs to be categorised into primary healthcare, secondary and tertiary or hospital psychiatric care.
"It is not just about increasing numbers and the quality of psychiatrists and clinical psychologists, but more importantly to have an effective continuum of care and facilities with both public and private sectors working together," he said.
Dr Dzulkefly said this at a press conference after launching a new Mental Health Handbook aimed at enabling Malaysians to recognise the signs and symptoms of mental health issues and to seek professional help on Tuesday (Dec 3).
Dr Dzulkefly was asked if the government would increase the number of psychological services in public hospitals to overcome the long queue.
While there is limited access to psychological services in public hospitals due to the long wait time, consultation fees for seeing a psychologist in the private sector ranges at an average of RM200 to RM300 an hour, fees that are beyond many Malaysians.
Malaysian Mental Health Association deputy president Assoc Prof Dr Ng Chong Guan said that the last count based on a survey done in 2018 showed that Malaysia has only 400-plus psychiatrists in the country and the World Health 0rganisation guidelines recommended a ratio of 10 psychiatrists per 10,000 peole.
"We are still short of 2,000 psychiatrists in Malaysia," he said.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Psychiatric Association president Dr Hazli Zakaria said there was a need to do some research and increase the number of people to gain access to mental health services.
He also said that an online survey of youths' mental health help-seeking methods of 276 youths from Aug 5 to Sept 5 found that the top three things youth wanted were talking to a friend or someone close to them, followed by using Internet search engines and meeting a mental health professional.
In view of the findings, he said it was important to have a list of reliable and trusted online platforms where youths could get the information on mental health.
"We need to provide a safe space in which youth could also talk to each other informally," he said.
Did you find this article insightful?
100% readers found this article insightful