Help is just a phone call away


GEORGE TOWN: For those who face mental health issues, help is always just a phone call or a click away, says a suicide prevention agency.

Pertubuhan Kebajikan Sneham Malaysia founder Datuk Dr Florence Sinniah said the public should eliminate any stigma associated with mental illness and encourage those with signs of anxiety or depression to immediately seek medical help.

“We should look out for the warning signs of depression among our loved ones and friends. We should help them in getting medical attention the moment we detect something amiss.

“We must make them feel at ease to relate their problems to us,” she said, adding that these sufferers must know that people were always there for them.

“Hospitals should also make the process easier if someone steps forward to seek help when they are struggling with mental thoughts,” she said.

“Many non-governmental organisations in the country provide helplines in several languages.”

Those in need of help could reach out and call the free helpline for emotional support, she added.

“We must take into account the pandemic and the impact of the lockdown on people – socially and emotionally.

“All of us suffer one way or another. But we must offer help to those who are unable to express it and struggling to cope with it,” she said.

Sneham is the first NGO in Malaysia to offer Tamil counselling services. It also has Bahasa Malaysia and English counselling services through its toll-free helpline (1-800-22 5757) from 4pm to 8pm daily.

Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) programme director Karen Lai said it was important to remove the stigma surrounding mental health issues, so that those affected would not feel ashamed to seek help.

“Decriminalising suicide is key towards prevention, and at the same time, society should play a collective role to identify early symptoms of depression and suicidal behaviours among family and friends,” she said.

Seri Delima assemblyman Syerleena Abdul Rashid said mental health was something that should be given great importance because it could be considered a health crisis.

“The stigma when it comes to mental health is that it is not seen as a medical issue or treated the same as other health issues. I think this should change,” she said.

Penang police chief Comm Datuk Mohd Shuhaily Mohd Zain said the present law was not mainly out to punish the victims, but rather a preventive measure to discourage people from committing such an act.

“Suicide cases are probed under Section 309, which allows us to investigate further as to the motive of their action.

“The law is leaning towards prevention when it was drafted rather than just punishment,” he said.

Under Section 309 of the Penal Code, whoever attempts to commit suicide or act towards it stands to be punished with imprisonment for up to a year, a fine or both.

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