PETALING JAYA: Despite a 2015 Health Ministry report that said one in three Malaysians, or 29% of the population, suffered from mental health issues, the figures remain the same as of now, said certified mental health and awareness practitioner Dr Praveena Rajendra.

A Malaysian Mental Health Association report released in October 2020 also stated the incidence of mental illness among Malaysians increased “two-fold” during the Covid-19 lockdown, resulting in more Malaysians seeking counselling, mostly for stress related issues.

“Mental illness is the second biggest health issue affecting Malaysians. The majority of those affected are the 16 to 19 age group and low-income families.

“It is shocking to know that mental illness is the leading cause of disability in Malaysia, with approximately 2.3 million people being affected at some point in their lives.

“It is a major issue that needs to be urgently addressed,” Praveena said.

To help bring attention to the matter and in conjunction with World Mental Health Day, which fell on Oct 10, Alliance for Safe Communiy (Ikatan) will organise a mental health awareness programme and public forum on Oct 15 at Cheras Leisure Mall.

The forum is titled “Mental well-being for all: Make it a reality”.

World Mental Health Day is an international day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against the social stigma of having mental health issues.

Praveena said mental health forums are important for Malaysians, especially now, to spread awareness and understanding of mental illness, its challenges and the assistance that is available and provided by various bodies.

“For a long time, the stigmatisation of mental illness has caused it to be a taboo subject among Malaysians. Now, the time is apt to demystify the truth behind it.

“This will be a platform for many to realise that dealing with mental health issues is not abnormal and there is nothing to be ashamed of.

“It is hoped that our forum will encourage those with mental health issues to come forward.”

On panellists at the public forum, she said: “We have invited psychiatrist Assoc Prof Dr Muhsin Ahmad Zahari, Health Ministry public health physician Dr Nurashikin Ibrahim, Befrienders Kuala Lumpur counsellor Leow Yew Chong and Mala Davi, a caregiver aiding those with mental issues.

“They will share their knowledge, expertise and experiences on issues of mental health.

“Moderated by me, the public can expect to gain eye-opening insights on ways to deal with mental health triggers in their day-to-day lives, the assistance and support provided by various parties in Malaysia and how to access help.

“The public can also find answers to their mental health concerns during the question-and-answer session.

“The overall objective is to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilise efforts in support of mental health.

“The theme for this year is to “make mental health and well-being for all a global priority”.

Apart from the forum, there will be a whole-day mental well-being exhibition at the mall concourse by organisations such as UCSI University, Taylor’s University, SAPOT (a social care platform), Laurent Bleu Clinic and V Flower Enterprise.

The event will be launched by Alliance for Safe Communiy (Ikatan) chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.

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