The ratio of one counsellor for every 3,716 people is too high to handle social problems which are getting more complex, said Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.
As at Oct 31 this year, there are 8,773 counsellors registered with the Board of Counsellors in the country, said Dr Wan Azizah (photo), who is also the Women, Family and Community Development Minister.
She said rising community crisis such as child abuse, domestic violence, abandoning aged people, baby dumping and paedophilia are affecting the well-being of the people.
“I see counsellors and their services as an important requirement to the people. I hope counselling services would be more widely available and engaged by the community,” she said when launching the 2019 National Counselling Month in Putrajaya today.
She said, for example, the 12-year-old boy who was suspected of raping a four-year-old girl under his mother’s care in July was under the influence of pornographic videos and a counsellor was needed to manage the case.
"This incident is very unfortunate. Such issues needed social intervention apart from legal action,” she said.
Wan Azizah said the people need to change the stigma on counselling service.
She said counselling service should start at an early stage, with intervention at the student level and at home by parents.
This is because the 2017 National Morbidity and Health Study by the Health Ministry targeting the health scope of teenagers showed the three main mental issues among school pupils are anxiety (39.7 percent), depression (18.3 percent) and stress (9.6 percent).
“In this regard, parents, family members, teachers and older friends could play an important role to help identify youths in need of counselling services,” she said.
To improve the delivery of psychological and counselling services to the people, Wan Azizah said the Psychology and Counselling Division of the Welfare Department (JKM) has set up a Psychological Support Team (PST) since 2016.
She said the PST now has 1,037 personnel, comprising professional volunteers such as registered volunteers or individuals with related academic qualifications who are registered with the division.
“I am urging more qualified professionals to register as a PST member to continue the noble effort in providing counselling services to those in need,” she said.
Apart from that, Wan Azizah said the Women Development Department has also created “lay counsellors” in the community, which is a social support system carried out in an informal situation or in the form of special community sessions.
"Lay counsellors are the frontline people who listen to problems and give emotional support to friends in the community,” she said and added that as at July 31, 9,115 lay counsellors had been given training.