Raise, Don’t Cut Psychiatry, Mental Health Budget: MPs

MOH’s 2021 budget for psychiatry and mental health was reduced by RM31.4 million.

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 9 — Two lawmakers today urged the Ministry of Health (MOH) to increase its 2021 budget for psychiatry and mental health, amid the rise of mental illnesses during the Covid-19 pandemic.

During his debate on MOH’s 2021 budget at the committee stage at the Dewan Rakyat today, Jelebu MP Jalaluddin Alias pointed out a cut in the allocation for psychiatry and mental health by RM31.4 million from RM344.8 million for Budget 2020 to RM313.4 million for Budget 2021.

“In Budget 2021, the psychiatry and mental health allocation has been reduced by RM31 million, although mental illness and mental disorders have increased, especially when Covid-19 landed in our country,” Jalaluddin said.

“Hence, I would like to ask the ministry to consider increasing the allocation to overcome suicide problems to overcome mental illness that is faced by the people.”

Jerlun MP Mukhriz Mahathir similarly questioned the budget reduction for psychiatry and mental health.

“Our people are facing depression and they need mental health support. I call for this allocation to be raised,” Mukhriz said in his debate.

The police reported that Malaysia has seen 266 suicides from March 18 to October 30 during movement restrictions, with an average of 30 suicides a month during seven months of Movement Control Order (MCO). A quarter of the suicide cases was attributed to high debt burden.

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic till August this year, three government psychosocial helplines received 11,791 calls for assistance, among which were related to issues on emotional support and counselling for stress, anxiety, and loss of hope.

Factors that led to these issues include loss of job, no source of income, interpersonal relationship, isolation, and decrease in access to assistance during the MCO.

Moreover, the Jelebu MP also asked the health minister today not to close 1Malaysia clinics, as he pointed out that most people in his constituency in Negeri Sembilan had benefited from this clinic.

The 1Malaysia clinic in Jelebu is scheduled to close in February next year.

“My routine is to visit my people, and it is an opinion by most of the people, Chinese, Malays and Indians, that the 1Malaysia clinic should not be closed,” the Jelebu MP said.

“This clinic they said has a very good role.”

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