#TamatDarurat, Current Affairs, National

Save Malaysian lives! Allow counselling centres to operate

Press statement by MP for Seputeh, Teresa Kok in Kuala Lumpur on 4 July 2021:

 

Save lives from mental illness and suicide. Government is urged to allow counselling centres to operate and to open up parks with strict SOP as a way to reduce peoples’ mental stress and suicidal rates caused by a series of lockdowns

 

The whole nation went into shock when we were suddenly informed about the high suicide rates that appeared to have soared during first Covid pandemic lockdown in 2020 till May this year. This shock announcement was made by the Health Director-General Tan Sri Noor Hisham and the police in early July this year.

According to Bukit Aman CID director Comm Datuk Seri Abd Jalil Hassan, a total of 631 suicide cases were recorded last year and 468 cases between January and May this year, and Selangor recorded the highest number of suicide cases between January and May this year with 117 cases, while Johor topped the list of suicide cases for 2019 and 2020 with a total of 101 cases.

 
Malay Mail article screenshot on the worrying suicide rate statistics in Malaysia.
 

Comm Abd Jalil said an average of two suicide cases occurred every day from 2019 until May this year. On top of that, we are also seeing a worrying spike in domestic violence, which has since been referred to as a ‘pandemic within a pandemic”. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) has confirmed that domestic violence cases are at  crisis levels, months after the lockdown. Many domestic violence victims have no where to turn to when they desperately needed counselling and temporary shelters. 

This announcement on suicide statistics by the government has somehow encouraged more companies, NGOs and individuals to get more involved in feeding programmes for the poor. However, no matter how much the government, elected representatives and the private sector try to feed the poor, they are unable to help to reduce mental stress suffered by the many. The acts of food charity won’t effectively reduce suicide rates in the country. The focus must be towards mental health too.

 
MP for Seputeh, Teresa Kok.
 

According to a study published in the website of the National Center of Biotechnology of Information (NCBI) on suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts among older people in five developing countries, it concluded that Physical Activity plays an important role in avoiding Suicidal Thoughts and Suicidal Attempts among the elderly population. Not engaging in Physical Activity can significantly heighten the prevalence of suicidal behaviors among both men and women. (Source: Engagement in physical activity, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts among older people in five developing countries.) 

Another article “Low physical activity and high sedentary behaviour are associated with adolescents’ suicidal vulnerability: Evidence from 52 low- and middle-income countries” by Foundation Acta Paediatrica in 2019 also confirmed that “Low Physical Activity may be a more important risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviours among male, than female, adolescents. Promoting active lifestyle should be integrated into suicide prevention programmes in resource-poor settings.” 

 
MP for Batu Kawan Kasthuri Patto’s statement regarding the worrying increase in suicide rates in Malaysia..
 

While the government is trying to reduce the infectivity of Covid-19 and prevent more people from contracting Covid by imposing MCO and EMCO in Selangor and various states in Malaysia, it is high time the government look seriously into the current hikes in mental illnesses and suicide rates in an urgent manner.

 

It is high time the government allows more counselling centres to operate by following strict SOPs.

 

Letters of approvals should be given to those who are involved in counselling programmes. At the moment, many counselling centres are forced to close as they are not considered as essential service.

Besides, it is important for the government to open up parks to allow people who are under tremendous mental stress during the pandemic to exercise and to release stress under strict SOPs, as suggested by the researched articles mentioned above. 

While we are battling against the Covid-19 pandemic, we should look at the health of the nation in a comprehensive manner, including finding ways to deal with increasing suicides and mental health issues. Opening up counselling centres and community parks are few of the effective ways to prevent mental problems and suicide rates. 

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