Along with the surge of Covid-19 cases during the initial phases of the lockdown, mental health cases were similarly on the rise and entered a state of crisis.
Despite the World Health Organization’s (WHO) announcement last May declaring an end to Covid-19 as a public health emergency, we are seeing no such movement in the statistics for mental health cases.
The government employed 200 licensed and registered counsellors amid the pandemic (October 2020) to be placed in public health care settings (primary health care settings such as Klinik Kesihatan) to curb the rise of mental health cases.
Such a move is applaudable as it streamlines mental health services to primary care services, instead of clogging up hospital psychiatry clinics which, at best, can only provide monthly appointments for outpatient treatment.
Thus, awareness about mental health conditions drastically increases and it promotes help-seeking behaviours by patients.
These counsellors are officially known as “Pegawai Psikologi (Kaunseling) S41 – Contract For Service/ CFS”, where no possibility of increment, EPF (Employees’ Provident Fund) or Socso (Social Security Organisation) contributions, or housing allowances are provided, and the contract is renewed annually.
Many counsellors come and go, but those who stayed are adamant about the ideology of affordable and accessible mental health services.
However, as we reach August 2, 2023, it is important to announce and note that counselling services in primary health care settings by contract counsellors will come to an end.
Renewal of the said contract cannot be seen in sight, and benefits have been stagnant since the beginning.
The Health White Paper for Malaysia mentioned an estimation of 29.2 per cent in the prevalence of mental health conditions among Malaysians aged 16 years and above. Even while no structured strategy has yet to be formulated to tackle this issue, counsellors in primary health care settings are being terminated.
Is clogging up hospital psychiatry clinics the best solution for patients? I digress.
For the patients, we thank you for seeking help, but this is as far as we can accompany you.
For our colleagues in the psychiatry clinic, we will revert the continuance of care to you.
For the higher-ups, we hope that there will be a proper plan in tackling mental health cases with affordable and accessible services, as mental health issues are still rampantly on the rise!
The author is a licensed and registered counsellor working in a Klinik Kesihatan (public health clinic) in Malaysia. CodeBlue is providing the author anonymity as civil servants are prohibited from writing to the press without prior authorisation.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.