KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 20 – The Ministry of Health (MOH) employs just 3.9 per cent of the total 9,562 licensed and registered counsellors in Malaysia, Dr Zaliha Mustafa says.
The health minister, in a written parliamentary reply last Tuesday, said there are a total of 9,562 certified counsellors in both the public and private sectors registered with the Malaysian Counselling Board (LKM), with only 369 counsellors working in government facilities under the MOH.
She did not provide the breakdown on the remaining counsellors working in university hospitals versus private practices.
Dr Zaliha was responding to Sri Aman MP Doris Sophia Brodi’s inquiry about the number of psychiatrists and psychologists (permanent and contract) and the ministry’s efforts to address the increasing number of mental health cases in Malaysia.
According to the National Specialist Register (NSR), there are 578 registered psychiatrists, with 385 (67 per cent) serving in MOH facilities and another 193 in facilities under the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Higher Education, and the private sector.
As for the number of clinical psychologists, there are 45 serving in MOH hospitals.
“As an initial step to meet the mental health needs of Malaysians, the MOH procured the services of 200 counsellors on a one-year contract from August 2020 to August 2021 to be stationed in district health offices (PKD) nationwide.
“These contract counsellors were placed in 138 PKDs to provide scheduled services in 831 health clinics nationwide. To ensure service continuity, this contract for service (CFS) has been extended until August 2025,” Dr Zaliha said.
A registered counsellor at a public health clinic previously wrote to CodeBlue last July, asking if the government would renew the contracts of the 200 contract counsellors before the end of their contract last August 2.
Going by the health minister’s parliamentary reply, it appears that the MOH has heeded their call.
The government is collaborating with various agencies and the private sector to utilise counsellors available nationwide, including those in the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, Ministry of Higher Education, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Home Affairs, and LKM.
The ministry aims to boost the number of psychiatric specialists by reappointing retired psychiatrists based on service needs and critical areas, Dr Zaliha said.
Additional efforts involve increasing federal scholarships (Hadiah Latihan Persekutuan or HLP) for psychiatry programmes and allowing medical officers to pursue training via the parallel pathway, utilising overseas qualifications like Member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (MRCPsych) from the United Kingdom.
According to the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS): Adolescent Health Survey 2022, the prevalence of suicidal thought increased from 10 per cent in 2017 to 13.1 per cent among teenagers aged 13 to 17 years in Malaysia last year.
Similarly, the rate of attempted suicides among Malaysian teenagers rose from 6.9 per cent in 2017 to 9.5 per cent in 2022.
One in four adolescents reported feeling depressed. Twice as many girls (36.1 per cent) as boys (17.7 per cent) felt depressed.