KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 10 –The community in Malaysia is not exempted from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their mental health, said Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.
He said social factors that cause excessive stress, such as losing job or source of income and to be isolated from family and friends, can affect some individuals with high risk of mental problem and depression.
“If the depression failed to be identified and treated properly, there is a risk of suicidal behaviour.
“Suicidal behaviour includes suicidal ideation, suicidal plan, suicide attempt and death due to suicide,” he said in a statement in conjunction with World Suicide Prevention Day today.
This year’s theme is ‘Act Fast, Hope Built’, which is aimed at increasing public confidence to play a role in preventing suicides and eliminating the stigma associated with suicidal behaviour.
According to Dr Noor Hisham, as of July this year, a total of 638 suicide cases were reported by the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) compared to 262 cases over the corresponding period in 2020, an increase of 143 percent or 1.4 times more.
In line with the concept of the Malaysian Family, Dr Noor Hisham said the society should play a role in identifying the early symptoms of depression and suicidal behaviour among their loved ones.
“This includes asking about and taking care of the welfare of family members and people around them, especially those who are affected by the pandemic, by providing support and encouragement for them seek help and treatment, as well as prevent the spread of news, videos or photos on suicide incidents on social media.
“The society also needs to remove the negative stigma against families and individuals with mental illness and not be judgmental over suicide cases, while maintaining relationship and providing social support,” he added.
He said various initiatives were carried out by the Health Ministry (MOH) in addressing the issue of suicidal behaviour, including strengthening of mental health and psychosocial support services and support efforts to decriminalize suicide attempts.
Other initiatives include training for ‘first-line responders’ such as health personnel, police, and firefighters to improve their suicidal behaviour management skills and intensify engagement sessions with various ministries, as well and government and non-governmental agencies, he added.
Dr Noor Hisham said the Health Ministry is committed to establishing cooperation, and welcome various agencies to participate in the implementation of suicide prevention programme.