MELAKA: The National Suicide Registry Malaysia should be revived, says Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.
The Alliance for Safe Community chairman said the registry could serve as an effective platform to draw up preventive strategies and policies using reliable data.
"I also hope mental health experts can conduct more research and studies to create evidence-based intervention and rehabilitation programmes," he said here on Sunday (March 19).
Lee said there was a need to focus on mental health following the Covid-19 pandemic, which had impacted many people worldwide.
He said this was evident in a World Health Organisation (WHO) report which said that in 2020, the first year of the pandemic, global prevalence of depression and anxiety increased by 25%.
He added that locally, suicide cases increased by 81% between 2020 and 2021.
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"The tragic loss of 1,142 lives to suicide during this period means that we need to place more emphasis on taking care of people's mental well-being," he said, adding that the Health Ministry had conducted some outstanding programmes to bolster mental resilience.
"I would also like to applaud the setting up of the National Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in October.
"The centre minimises the service gap and promotes better collaboration among the government, private agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs)," he said.
Lee said one of the centre's first projects was Talian HEAL 15555, a mental health crisis helpline that operates from 8am to midnight daily.
"The Talian HEAL service should be extended to 24 hours as there is a need for it, judging from the high call volume to Befrienders KL's round-the-clock emotional support helpline," he added.
He also singled out the ministry's "Let's TALK" campaign for creating public awareness of the importance of mental health.
"It's also evident that the public mental health care system is burdened with a high volume of patients.
"The situation is challenging for the lower income group who cannot afford treatment at private hospitals or clinics," he said.
According to the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2019, he said, the prevalence of depression among the B40 group was the highest at 2.7%.
He suggested that the ministry look at subsidising mental health treatment at private facilities for this group.
Lee said as the nation works towards the decriminalisation of suicide, there should also be a mechanism to look into improving interventions for those who attempt suicide.
"Most are suffering unbearable emotional pain," he said, suggesting government incentives or subsidies to companies that set up employee assistance programmes.
"It is commendable for the ministry to hand over RM6.2mil in support of mental health NGOs in September.
"I hope this practice will be continued to ensure that NGOs can complement the ministry's efforts in community outreach," 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 www.befrienders.org.my/centre-in-malaysia a full list of numbers and operating hours).