LETTER | On the last day of the Dewan Rakyat, Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad announced that the Ministry of Health would launch the “Let's Talk Malaysia” campaign in October 2019.
The campaign would be run with the cooperation of a non-governmental organization (NGO). This is one of the government's initiatives to reduce stigma in the community towards patients with mental illness.
Dzulkefly also added that the National Mental Health Strategic Plan 2019-2025 will be launched in this coming September.
The issue also received attention from Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who stressed that awareness of mental wellbeing among Malaysians should be improved.
This is because mental health problems can affect every level of society, regardless of age and gender.
The Health Ministry's initiatives should be applauded and welcomed by the general public.
This problem is increasingly worrying among Malaysians. Studies show that mental illness will be the second biggest health problem faced by Malaysians by 2020, after heart disease.
However, there is another initiative that the government can take to address this problem, namely, by setting up a Mental Health Institute.
The right data to get the right policies
The Mental Health Institute can act as a centre to address Malaysians' mental health problems. It is a proactive step in preventing mental health problems from becoming more critical among Malaysians.
There are 3 main functions of the Mental Health Institute:
- Serve as a research centre;
- To conduct awareness campaigns; and
- Act as a one-stop centre for mental health issues.
The institute can act as a central data collection centre for mental health problems. This will facilitate the research process, which can be used by the ministry to produce evidence-based interventions and treatments to mitigate and treat mental health problems.
This would also allow the ministry to produce right policies in addressing this problem.
Furthermore, the institute could operate as a major driver in conducting awareness campaigns or advocacy to reduce the stigma towards mental illness.
Stigma is the main cause of a person not seeking treatment. A study conducted by Universiti Sains Malaysia shows that a majority of Malaysian are afraid to approach those with mental health problems.
This is because they think these patients can hurt the people around them. This negative view makes it difficult for mental illness patients to seek treatment.
In addition to that, the institute can also be a one-stop centre for Malaysians to get mental health services. Among the services that can be offered include counselling, mental health screening, as well as being a rehabilitation centre.
In conclusion, the establishment of the Mental Health Institute should be considered by the Health Ministry in addressing mental health problems.
After all, this is in line with the Ministry of Health's mental health vision, which is to create a balanced and psychologically healthy society, emphasizing mental health promotion and prevention of psychosocial problems.
The writer is a researcher at the Institute for Research & Development of Policy.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.