How The Health Ministry Is Fighting Depression

Approximately half a million of Malaysians aged 16 years and above are suffering from depression, according to the 2019 National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS).

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 31 — The Ministry of Health (MOH) is carrying out various initiatives, including promotional and prevention activities, to tackle mental health issues in Malaysia, said Dr Adham Baba.

“The Ministry of Health (MOH) provides mental health services at 1,001 health clinics nationwide. Among the services provided include promotion, early screening and detection, as well as family medicine specialists’ management of cases related to depression and suicide attempts,” the health minister mentioned in a written Dewan Rakyat reply on December 14 to Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh.

At the same time, psychiatric treatment services in four mental health institutions and 66 MOH hospitals throughout Malaysia offer psychiatric treatment and intervention, as well as
early detection of suspected individuals suffering from mental health problems and mental illness, including depression.

Besides that, MOH provides 28 community mental health centres (MENTARI) which offers outpatient and community psychiatric services as well as rehabilitation services.

Ramkarpal had asked MOH to state the steps taken by the ministry to address depression issues among Malaysians.

Approximately half a million of Malaysians aged 16 years and above are suffering from depression, according to the 2019 National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS).

Earlier this month, Jelebu MP Jalaluddin Alias and Jerlun MP Mukhriz Mahathir have urged MOH to increase its 2021 budget for psychiatry and mental health, amid the rise of mental illnesses during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The allocation for psychiatry and mental health has seen a reduction by RM31.4 million from RM344.8 million for Budget 2020 to RM313.4 million for Budget 2021.

According to Dr Adham, MOH has implemented a mental health awareness campaign, “Let’s Talk Healthy Minds”, an initiative that involves a combination of efforts from various government and non-government agencies.

It is an effort to put an end to the stigma against mental health and mental illness as well as to encourage people to seek assistance when they encounter problems.

“MOH has also collaborated with the Ministry of Education to implement the Healthy Mind Programmes in schools since 2011. This programme involves screening to identify early levels of stress, anxiety and depression among schoolchildren. The identified students will be given interventions and treatment accordingly,” Dr Adham added.

According to MOH, a total of 3440 secondary schools and 7,780 primary schools have implemented this programme.

KOSPEN (Komuniti Sihat Pembina Negara) and KOSPEN PLUS are programmes to improve stress management skills among community members and those who are working.

Services such as screenings, mental health promotional activities and referrals for clients in need of expert assistance are provided under these programmes.

It is to be noted that Mercy Malaysia and the Health Ministry’s Crisis Preparedness and Response Centreset up a hotline for those affected by the Covid-19 outbreak and reported that 46.8 per cent of the calls were from people who have some form of psychological problems.

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