Allocation for mental health lauded

JOHOR BARU: Non-governmental organisations have lauded the government’s move to allocate RM24mil for mental health, prevention of aggression and injuries as well as misuse of programmes.

They view it as timely, considering the increasing number of people suffering from mental challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic and other life afflictions.

However, they hope the government can consider providing funds to NGOs which are addressing the issues directly.

Befrienders Johor Baru president Danny Loo said Budget 2021’s allocation to tackle mental health-related issues could help increase public awareness on the matter.

“It will benefit many who are suffering from mental problems and need access to professional help.

“I hope that some of the allocation could be channelled to NGOs such as Befrienders which is tackling the issue on the ground,” he said when contacted.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the amount of public funding received by NGOs, including those that are focusing on mental health issues, are on the decline.

“At the same time, the number of people who are in need of emotional and psychological support is on the rise.

“We have been receiving an increasing number of active suicide callers – meaning those who are at the verge of committing suicide – more frequently over the past few months,” he said, adding that an increase in public funding and government allocation would allow them to reach out to more people in need.

He also hopes that the government will consider giving a tax relief to NGOs as some are facing problems getting tax relief for public donations they have received.

“For instance, our application for a tax relief has been rejected four times and this has affected our operations due to a lack of money,” he said.

Yayasan Suria Johor Baru founder James Ho hopes that the government will work closely with NGOs on the ground to ensure the allocations to address mental health reach the main target.

“The relevant government agencies and departments tasked to carry out the programmes need to work closely with NGOs as these are people who are on the ground and are well-versed with the reality of the situation.

“The public is also more inclined to reach out to NGOs as they are more familiar with the organisations,” he said, adding that Yayasan Suria Johor Baru also dealt with mental health issues.

He said that close collaboration between government agencies and NGOs must continue in order for the government’s aim of tackling mental health issues to be realised.During the tabling of Budget 2021, Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz said that RM24mil would be allocated to enhance programmes to address mental health issues, violence and abuse prevention as well as substance abuse.

He said the Health Ministry’s psychosocial helpline had received more than 35,000 phone calls from distraught people between March and October.

Those facing emotional and psychological distress can call Befrienders Johor Baru at 07-331 2300, Muar at 06-952 0313, Melaka at 06-284 2500/700 and Seremban Befrienders at 06-632 1772/3.

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