We ignore mental health issues at our own peril


THE latest incident in which a man ran amok and killed two young children in Yan, Kedah, should serve as a wake up call to the government and relevant agencies to address mental illness issues urgently and beef up programmes on mental health development in the country. (“Man kills two children in fit of rage”, Nation, The Star, Jan 10; online at tinyurl.com/star-rage.)

The public should also play their role in tackling the problem, which is now on the rise due to various factors. More effort should be made to promote good mental health  development at the community level. Like a time bomb, those who are suffering from mental health problems may explode at any time, affecting their family and community or their workplaces and colleagues.

I have consistently raised concerns about mental and psycho-social issues affecting our society. Various murder cases that allegedly involved suspects with mental disorders show how serious the issue is and emphasise the need to deal with it at the community level.

Some people will seek alternative treatment to cure mental illnesses, but it is better for them to be referred to a medical professional, perhaps a psychologist. Inter-vention in the early stages could reduce the likelihood of people with mental problems turning violent or committing suicide.

The fact that some mental disorders are caused by drug abuse should open our eyes to the seriousness of that issue too – we must find the best ways to tackle drug addiction, which increases every year.

Mental health development is very critical, and the entire community must pay heed to it and address mental health problems. We ignore these problems at our own peril.

I believe the issue should be addressed jointly by all parties, and with a sense of urgency. All parties should also strive to stop the stigmatisation of mentally ill persons who are often called orang gila (crazy people). The Health Ministry and all other stakeholders must work together to fight stigmatisation. Instead of insulting them, the community should help those with mental disorders to get counselling or psychiatric treatment.

TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE 

Mental Health Promotion Advisory Council member