In pursuit of happiness for PPR residents


Beneficial activities: Facilities for children to learn and play are badly needed at PPR flats.

PETALING JAYA: Eradicating poverty and improving economic conditions can help curb issues such as suicide at people’s housing projects (PPR), say social activists.

Suriana Welfare Society chairman Dr James Nayagam said this includes government measures to provide educational support alongside ensuring communities there generate a reasonable income, leading to happier homes.

“Suicidal thoughts and mental health issues (in PPR communities) are resulting components from issues such as poverty, poor living conditions and stress.

“Some form of thought or influence may be needed to reach this point, which leads to individuals feeling useless and hopeless,” he said.

James added that his organisation also did community work with such PPRs, giving them ownership over such projects.

“As outsiders, we don’t tell them what to do, but rather, empower them to help one another,” he said, adding that their initiatives in the Desa Mentari flats here also saw a reduction in violence and other aggressive behaviour.

He said a bond also has to be built with residents to ensure the programme’s success.

Child protection consultant and former Social Welfare Department assistant director Vijayakumari Pillai said PPR’s needed more centres for children to study in peace, alongside access to computers whilst under adult supervision.

“Activity centres for children (run by the Welfare Department in some districts) could also be extended to PPR’s and managed by respective residents associations

“The children also need exposure towards weekend activities such as games and physical activities to provide them a healthy and safer avenue to explore their potential,” she said, adding that spousal conflict, domestic violence and child abuse are also a common occurrence in PPR flats.

“This could be due to parents needing to earn better incomes, stress due to a lack of money, as well as the rising cost of living.

“Some parents may also work two jobs, resulting in children hardly seeing their parents, which creates little to no bonding, which is another factor for suicidal tendencies,” she said.

She said space was also a huge problem in PPR flats, adding that teens tended to spend more time outdoors and only coming home to eat and sleep.

“Once home, they may also find it harder to study due to space constraints, leaving their studies neglected,” she said.

On March 18, Bernama reported that a total of 13.4% of children and teenagers living in PPR’s in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor were found to have had thoughts of suicide or self harm due to the pressures of life.

The study – titled “Contributing Factors to Psychological Distress, Coping Strategies and Help-Seeking Behaviours among Adolescents Living in the Klang Valley’s People’s Housing Projects” – also found 12.3% of this group had mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

Deputy Health Minister Lukanisman Awang Sauni said the study was conducted in 37 PPRs, involving 1,578 children and teenagers aged between 10 and 17.

He said the factors contributing to such mental health problems include economic pressure, cramped living conditions and peer pressure.

Those needing assistance can contact the 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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