KJ: Increase in suicides and mental health issues troubling, prompt action needed

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia recorded an increase of 81% or 1,142 suicide cases last year compared to 631 cases in 2020, says Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.

He said the police data showed worrying statistics that needed immediate action as the Covid-19 pandemic had exacerbated the issue of mental health.

This was also seen in the data analysis on the ministry's psychosocial helpline from March 2020 until now, said Khairy.

Out of 307,673 calls received, 227,713 or 74.3% of callers needed emotional support and counselling due to chronic stress, depression and anxiety throughout the pandemic.

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"Contributing factors included financial issues such as loss of income or employment, family problems such as divorce, loss of loved ones, family conflict as well as domestic abuse," Khairy said in his speech during a mental health programme fund distribution for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) at the Health Ministry here on Wednesday (Sept 28).

At the event, funds totalling RM6.2mil were distributed to 52 mental health NGOs to strengthen their work in providing support and psychosocial services to the community.

Khairy added that mental health has been a pervasive, long-standing public health issue in Malaysia, with the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2019 finding the prevalence of depression among 18-year-olds and above to be 2.3%, which is estimated to be almost 500,000 people.

He said NGOs had been steadfast partners of the ministry since as early as the 1970s and 1980s in providing mental health services, especially from the aspect of health promotion and mental health advocacy as well as psychosocial support services.

ALSO READ: Home Ministry: 1,660 suicides from March 18, 2020 to Dec 31 last year

"The responsibility of dealing with (such) problems must be jointly borne.

"Therefore, I am very confident that the distribution of funds to these NGOs will be able to help the effort in implementing mental health activities effectively," he added.

Those suffering from problems can reach out to: Mental Health Psychosocial Support Service (03-2935 9935 or 014-322 3392); Talian Kasih (15999 or WhatsApp 019-261 5999); Jakim’s Family, Social and Community care centre (WhatsApp 0111-959 8214); 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).

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