Society must play a role in bringing peduli (care) back into our culture and customs to encourage those suffering from mental health challenges (MHC) to seek treatment, said Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad.
He said society can start by refraining from labelling those with MHC as "crazy", "senteng", "tiga suku" and a host of other derogatory terms that push them further away from seeking help and treatment, out of shame.
“Isolation and abandonment even by family and friends are not uncommon. Such abandonment causes a detrimental impact on society because no one wants to help, yet everyone is easy to judge, hypothetically.
“We must address health challenges and the stigma that haunts those who experience it day in day out together as a community,” he said in his keynote address at the Mental Health Experiential Conference 2019 in Petaling Jaya today.
Dzulkefly said research has pointed out three particular biases that exist against those with MHC - fear and exclusion, authoritarianism and benevolence, where there is positive intention yet resulting in marginalising people with MHC as "infantile".
“All three biases are based on a common belief, that people with MHC are ‘less’ than people without, as if the challenge completely affects them in entirety and makes them less than human.
“This often leads to people with MHC being ‘excluded’, ‘shamed’ and ‘shunned’ for something which wasn’t caused by them,” he said.
To address this prevalent challenge, Dzulkefly (above) said, the Health Ministry has been providing mental health services through four mental institutions, 61 hospitals, 25 Community Mental Health Centres (Mentari), and screening and intervention programmes are made available at 1,001 government clinics nationwide.
“The ministry has also introduced and implemented the Komuniti Sinar Perkasa Negara (Kospen) plus mental health training as part of the employee training programme, to further fortify efforts done through the former Kospen programme.”
Dzulkefly added that in order to break the stigma on those with MHC, education will be the best approach as it can begin at any level.
“With education, we can spread a better understanding of the challenges endured by those suffering from MHC, nurture necessary support and nip discrimination and abandonment in the bud,” he said.
The society also needs to embrace them via engagement, so that the stigma plaguing those with MHC can be discredited, he added.