THERE has been an increase in calls to the Health Ministry’s Psychosocial Support Helpline from January to September this year, says Deputy Health Minister Datuk Aaron Ago Dagang.
He said since the Covid-19 pandemic began last year, a total of 210,930 calls were made to the helpline from March 2020 to September this year.
A total of 44,061 calls were made from January to September last year. The number has increased to 166,869 calls for the same period this year, he added.
Aaron said 82.2% of calls received were from people reaching out for emotional support and counselling.
From March 2020 to September this year, about 956 cases or 0.4% of the calls received were suspected mental health illnesses.
“This psychosocial hotline helps in minimising mental health issues such as depression, where help will be given through counselling sessions,” he said during Question Time.
Hannah Yeoh (PH-Segambut) asked Aaron about the ministry’s plans to ensure the downtrodden and homeless will receive adequate mental health aid.
She said that when these people called the Health Ministry’s psychosocial helpline or Talian Kasih, the ministry officers would only forward the calls to the relevant NGOs and agencies.
In response, Aaron said any calls received by the ministry’s psychosocial hotline would be analysed and it will be forwarded to the relevant NGOs, according to the nature of the issue.
“If it involves domestic violence, we will forward it to the women’s aid organisation (WAO), if it’s a mental problem, we will forward it to the hospital.
“As I’ve said, 80% of calls need counselling and our counsellors are placed at hospitals,” he added.
On decriminalising suicide attempts, Aaron said the relevant amendments are still being studied.
“It will be brought to the Cabinet soon,” he added.
Under Section 309 of the Penal Code, those unsuccessful in their suicide attempts could face charges and penalties amounting to imprisonment for up to a year or a fine, or both.
Those in need of help and counselling can reach out to: Mental Health Psychosocial Support Service (03-2935 9935 or 014-322 3392); Talian Kasih (15999 or WhatsApp 019-2615 999); Jakim’s Family, Social and Community Care Centre (WhatsApp 0111-9598 214); and Befrienders Kuala Lumpur (03-7627 2929) or visit www.befrienders.org.my/centre-in-malaysia for a full list of numbers and operating hours.