M'sia needs about 3,100 psychiatrists, says Health Minister

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia needs about 3,100 psychiatrists to help people in this country manage mental health issues, says Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba.

The Health Minister said the ideal ratio recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) is one psychiatrist to 10,000 people but because of the lack of psychiatric professionals in Malaysia, there are fewer than one psychiatrist to help 10, 000 people.

“Malaysia’s current status is one-tenth of the one-to-every-10,000 figure and the country will need about 3,100 mental health professionals to support Malaysia’s population of 32 million as recorded in 2017, ” he said.

Speaking after presenting the B40 Healthcare Scheme (PeKa B40) 2019-2020 report on Tuesday (July 6), Dr Adham said that there are currently 268 trained psychiatric professionals serving at government health facilities while 181 more serve at universities and the private healthcare sector.

The PeKa B40 2019-2020 report revealed that 1.6% of the 457,462 under the scheme were dealing with depression while another 1.4% were living with anxiety and they have been referred to public psychiatry facilities to get treatment.

Earlier, Dr Adham said efforts are also being taken to ensure no more Covid-19 outbreaks happen in psychiatric wards after the disease affected patients at the men’s psychiatric ward at Hospital Kuala Lumpur.

This led to the ward being frozen, which means it will not be taking in new patients while existing patients will be contained in the area.

Dr Adham said there was also a previous outbreak affecting Hospital Sentosa in Kuching which specialises in treating mental health patients.

He also said the Ministry has been allocated RM24mil to run programmes to raise mental health awareness this year and the government plans to embark on a “whole of society” approach to help those affected.

Among the measures include placing 200 counsellors at health clinics to help with early detection of mental health issues in patients, placing family health specialists at health clinics and referring those affected to the Mentari community mental health centre to get treatment.

Measures are also being taken to strengthen psychiatric institutions and treatments in the country as efforts are also being carried out in schools through the Let’s Talk programme to help with early detection of mental problems among students.

“We’re taking various interventional steps to help patients, including those in the B40 group, with early detections so they can be given the right treatment, ” he said.

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