KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 1 — A shortage of funds forced the cancellation of the National Suicide Registry Malaysia (NSRM) in 2011, just four years after it began operations in 2007 with special research funding.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said in a written Dewan Rakyat reply to Batu MP Prabakaran M. Parameswaran last July 25 that the Ministry of Health (MOH) started efforts in 2020 to develop a National Suicide and Fatal Injury Registry Malaysia (NSFIRM), as suicide rates are a health indicator under the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
NSFIRM has been allocated RM4 million under the 12th Malaysia Plan.
“This project is expected to be fully completed in 2023,” Khairy said.
“The development of NSFIRM will enable us to obtain detailed and accurate statistics on incidents of suicide and fatal injury, which will help strengthen efforts in developing policy and programmes on the prevention of suicidal behaviours.”
Suicide rates are currently made available by the police. Police reported in July 2021 three daily suicides nationwide on average from January to May 2021 during the Covid-19 pandemic, higher than the 1.7 rate in 2020 and in 2019.
The government has yet to implement a moratorium on the prosecution and conviction of attempted suicide that is criminalised under Section 309 of the Penal Code. Section 309 also has yet to be amended or repealed by Parliament.
Khairy reportedly said last June that MOH is awaiting feedback from the Attorney-General’s Chambers on the proposed moratorium and amendment to Section 309 before the government makes a decision on whether to decriminalise suicide attempts.
Khairy told Pulai MP Salahuddin Ayub in a separate written parliamentary reply last July 25 that MOH has outlined several strategies under the National Strategic Plan for Mental Health 2020-2025 to address mental health issues among children and adolescents.
Salahuddin had cited the Malaysian Psychiatric Association for Children and Teens that highlighted children are unable to receive treatment for mental health issues due to poor detection.
The health minister said the Minda Sihat school programme, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, aims to strengthen coping skills and resiliency among children and teenagers. There is also a referral system to refer students for further treatment for mental health issues.
MOH runs advocacy sessions through the promotion of mental health activities to target groups in schools, tailored according to the age of children and teenagers.
MOH also works with the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry (KPWKM) to organise awareness campaigns for parents to improve parenting skills and family values.
Besides that, MOH has done engagement sessions with related agencies like KPWKM, the Communications and Multimedia Ministry, the Institute for Youth Research Malaysia (IYRES) under the Youth and Sports Ministry, as well as non-governmental organisations (NGOs) like Child Care, on mental health issues among children and adolescents.