KUALA LUMPUR: Distress calls statistics received by government agencies from March 25, 2020 to May 20 this year revealed that 85.5 percent of the calls were related to mental health issues that require emotional support and counseling.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba (pix) said they include acute stress, anxiety, depression, abuse and suicidal behaviour.

He said the Health Ministry (MOH) acknowledged that 2020 and 2021 were very challenging years and there was no denying that the people were affected psychologically and emotionally as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The causes identified are loss of employment, no source of income, family conflicts, interpersonal relationship problems, stigma and lack of access to aid services.

“Data from MOH, meanwhile, found that in the period from January to December 2020, a total of 1,080 cases of suicide attempts were reported to have received treatment at MOH hospitals,“ he said in a statement today.

The statistics were received through the Psychosocial Support Helpline established in collaboration with MOH-Mercy MALAYSIA, as well as the helplines of other government agencies such as the KASIH Line under the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development (KPWKM) and the KSK-Care Line under the Department of Islamic Development (JAKIM).

He said since January 2020, the MOH had activated the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) team at the state and district levels to provide emotional support to affected individuals such as Covid-19 patients, frontliners and families who lost family members to Covid-19.

“The MHPSS team consists of public health physicians, family physicians, psychiatrists, psychological officers (Counseling and Clinical), paramedics, medical social officers and occupational rehabilitation officers as well as trained individuals from non-governmental organisations.

“MOH has implemented psychosocial activities in the field, including at quarantine stations and Covid-19 Low Risk Quarantine & Treatment Centres,“ he said.

Dr Adham said the activities carried out were mental health screening, psycho-education through digitally distributed infographics, psychological first aid (PFA), counselling, treatment and consultation as well as referrals to specialists for cases in need of their services.

In addition, pre-deployment briefings were also given to frontliners as mental preparation before they are mobilised to the field.

Dr Adham said the MOH will continue to implement several initiatives to address growing mental problems such as by intensifying advocacy of the ‘Let’s TALK Healthy Minds Campaign’ and ensuring the implementation of activities of the National Strategic Plan for Mental Health for the next five years.

“Among the strategic plans are to increase the accessibility of mental health services, prevention of violence and substance and alcohol abuse through digital systems and the latest technology in smart collaboration with other government agencies and NGOs.

“The MOH will also improve psychiatry and mental health services through the addition of 40 Community Mental Health Centres (MENTARI) by 2025 (currently 28 centres),“ he said. — Bernama

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