KUALA LUMPUR, July 26 — Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii said that he and several MPs will form a bipartisan parliamentary group on mental health, amid growing national focus on mental disorders.
The first goals of the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) are the decriminalisation of attempted suicide, which is currently punishable with a year’s jail or a fine, and expanded mental health insurance coverage.
“This APPG is not a normal caucus, but it involves insurance companies, psychologists, psychiatrists, and patients who are willing to share.
“We can write policy reports to the federal government on how to deal with some issues,” Dr Yii said in a dialogue with Klang MP Charles Santiago at the Malaysian Medics International’s (MMI) “The Good Doctor: A Health Care Festival” at Publika last Saturday.
He said the APPG will invite Bank Negara and AIA Malaysia, which recently launched a mental health benefit tacked onto a medical plan, to join them.
Dr Yii told CodeBlue that the APPG currently comprises himself, Kluang MP Wong Shu Qi, Sandakan MP Vivian Wong, and Johor Baru MP Akmal Nasrullah Mohd Nasir from the government. Opposition MPs currently comprise Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin and Kuala Kangsar MP Mastura Mohd Yazid, both from Umno.
The APPG also includes Kampung Tunku and Subang Jaya assemblywomen Lim Yi Wei and Michelle Ng respectively from Selangor.
There is no chair for the APPG at the moment, which Dr Yii described as a group with more capacity than a caucus but less powerful than a parliamentary select committee, as the team is still recruiting.
“The government has to recruit more mental health professionals,” said Dr Yii.
He added that the ranking of clinical psychologists in the civil service should be reevaluated as they are currently just considered degree-level support staff, even though such professionals may have a Master’s or PhD qualification.
“We should have more mental health care centres with counsellors or psychologists,” he told CodeBlue, noting that these may have less stigma than mental hospitals.