PETALING JAYA: Mental health problems including suicidal tendencies were the main reason for calls to the psycho-social assistance hotlines set up by the Health Ministry and other ministries in the past year since the pandemic, says Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba.
The Health Minister said last year alone, a total of 1,080 people who attempted suicide received treatments at government hospitals.
“Realising that there will be extended mental problems, we will place 200 psychological officers via contract service to assist with mental health patients in all districts and government health clinics, ” he said in a statement on Friday (May 21).
Dr Adham said the hotlines received a total of 145,173 calls between March 25 last year and May 20 this year with 85.5% involving the need for emotional and counselling support for acute stress, depression, restlessness, abuse and suicidal tendencies.
He added that such mental health cases during the pandemic were due to job losses, loss of income sources, family conflicts, interpersonal relation problems, stigmatisation and lack of access to assistance for such cases.
“These were shown in the statistics of such calls made to Psychosocial Support Hotlines set up with the cooperation of Health Ministry and Mercy Malaysia, as well as other hotlines such as Talian Kasih and Talian KSK-Care by government agencies under Women, Family and Community Development Ministry and Islamic Development Department of Malaysia.
“The pandemic has impacted the community greatly, especially those with mental health issues and those with mental illnesses.
“It has been a challenging year and the people are suffering emotionally and psychologically, ” he said.
Dr Adham said the ministry had also activated the Mental Health and Psychosocial Service teams in all states and districts to assist Covid-19 patients, individuals under quarantine, frontliners, those affected by the loss of family members from the disease, as well as the underprivileged in the community.
He said the teams comprised medical and psychological experts from various fields and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
“We have also implemented support activities at all quarantine stations and low-risk quarantine and treatment centres, ” he said.
Dr Adham listed mental evaluation and psychological first aid, as well as counselling as among the activities.
He said frontliners were also given pre-deployment briefings prior to their postings to medical premises nationwide to prepare them mentally.
"We are further strengthening the 'Let’s Talk Minda Sihat' campaign in line with the National Mental Health Strategic Plan.
“We want to increase mental health services, protection against violence and substance abuse including alcohol through digital and latest technology with other agencies and NGOs via virtual consultation and teleconsultation, ” said Dr Adham.
He said other efforts include expanding the current hotlines and mental health service teams.
“We also want to set up a National Suicide and Fatal Injuries Registry.
“I urge the people to stay calm and positive during the pandemic. Communicate with each other virtually and give emotional support to others. Manage your stress well and communicate effectively, ” Dr Adham added.
Those struggling with emotional breakdowns can call Talian Kasih at 15999 or WhatsApp 019-2615999 to seek help and emotional support.
Another organisation helping those struggling emotionally is the Befrienders who can be reached at 03-7627 2929 or www.befrienders.org.my.