DEPUTY Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also Home Minister, has recently proposed that all policemen be required to undergo annual medical check-up to ensure that they are physically fit to discharge their duty.
I welcome the directive by Dr Ahmad Zahid which has also been endorsed by the Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar. This is indeed very appropriate to safeguard the safety and health of our men and women in blue so that they could fulfil their responsibility effectively.
However, I hope that the health screenings would also take into consideration the mental health of our police personnel. In many health programmes implemented by various authorities, mental health is not given the same priority as other physical health issues.
The public can heave a sigh of relief if they know that the police personnel who are given the task to protect them could fulfil challenging tasks without any physical and mental hindrance.
Based on the Health Ministry’s National Health and Morbidity Survey, one in every three adults in the country is grappling with mental health issues, whether they realise it or not. The survey also found that the number of mental health patients has drastically increased compared with a decade ago.
It is estimated that about 4.2 million of 14.4 million Malaysians aged 16 and above suffer mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, personality disorder and schizophrenia. Among the causes for mental illness identified through the survey are pressure at workplace, financial problems, unconducive environment, and failure to achieve performance expectations.
The Public Service Department (PSD) has also revealed that civil servants aged between 30 and 40 are those who are mostly exposed to stress. PSD senior deputy director (psychology management) Dr Abdul Jalil Hassan has said that in 2020, stress would be the No. 1 illness in the world if not properly tackled by all parties.
It is clear that mental health issues related to stress among workers in Malaysia, including police and others, are serious and require immediate solutions.
We all know that the police have a challenging task and are exposed to stress. This is evident when a policeman in Temerloh, Pahang, fired shots in the air to release tension in October. There were similar incidents in previous years.
Issues related to stress among police personnel are not new and must be tackled effectively. If mental health is also being assessed during health screenings, those who are suffering from stress can be identified and asked to join suitable intervention programmes.
I really hope that the IGP and the top management of the police would consider the proposal that mental health check-up be made part of the health screenings.
The step taken by the Home Ministry to compel its police personnel and other ranks to undergo annual health screenings is laudable and should be emulated by other uniformed agencies. Mental health must also be given priority as it will affect the productivity of an organisation.
TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE
Member of Mental Health Promotion Advisory Council
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