A forum discussion titled ‘There is No Health Without Mental Health’ was part of the programme on the second day of the Health Education and Health Awareness (HEHA) health exhibition on 12 August 2012 at the Mid Valley Convention Centre.
Topics discussed included ‘Suicide Prevention is Everybody’s Concern’ and ‘A Healthy Mind for a Healthy Life’.
The speakers included YB Tan Sri Datuk Lee Lam Thye, Dr T. Maniam, Professor of Psychiatry at UKM Medical Centre and Dr Nurashikin Ibrahim, a Public Health Physician and Senior Principal Assistant Director from the Ministry of Health.
Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye kicked off the forum by giving an introductory talk stressing on the grave situation of mental health in our nation today. “Mental health is deteriorating in our community,” he stressed.
He revealed alarming results from a worldwide mental health survey that showed approximately 1 million people commit suicide every year. In Malaysia, the 3rd National Health and Mobility Survey 2006 showed that 11.2% of adults in the country have some form of mental distress.
What’s more alarming is that suicides are happening across the board, at increasingly younger ages and across all socio-economic backgrounds.
Lee cites examples of students who commit suicide when they do not perform well academically. “This is due to the pressure that parents put on their kids. Parents must act rationally and encourage their children positively. Don’t punish them in negative ways such not giving them the love they need when they are not performing up to expectations,” he said.
Due to rising mental health problems, the Ministry of Health plans to establish a mental health advisory council and community healthcare centres for those in need of help. “I hope that more of us will be aware why it is important to know about mental health,” Lee said.
Picking up from Tan Sri Lee was Prof Dr Maniam, who added that for every one suicide case, 20 people attempt suicide. This equates to 20 million people attempting suicide in a year. The audience were stunned when Dr Maniam divulged that, “in every 40 seconds, 1 person commits suicide somewhere in the world!”
According to him, mental problems are like any other illness such as diabetes or hypertension, as there are changes in the chemicals of the brain. However, most people tend to look at mental illness differently, usually attributing it to personal weakness.
“People commit suicide because of psychiatric illnesses. There are usually multiple reasons that contribute to suicide, such as bipolar, depression, alcohol or drug abuse and schizophrenia,” he said.
Suicide is not something to be taken lightly, Dr Maniam stressed. If someone mentions or tells you that he or she is suicidal, it is actually a cry for help.
Dr Maniam concludes his talk by clarifying some myths on suicide. “People may perceive that if a person makes several suicide attempts, they are not serious and are just seeking attention,” he said. This is a wrong perception, as people commit suicide due to the loss of hope. It is important to listen to them.
Dr Nurashikin Ibrahim, the third speaker for the afternoon, enlightened the audience on the importance of having a healthy mind and life.”Good mental health is the ability of a person to maintain a harmonious relationship with others and to contribute to the community,” she explains.
People with good mental health are able to recognise their strengths and weaknesses, to be comfortable with themselves and amongst others.
“Mental health problems can occur in anyone of us,” says Dr Nurashikin.
“Everyone experience stress but with communication and problem solving skills, you will recover. But not everyone does,” she said, adding that there is a strong link between mental and physical health, as studies have shown that people with diabetes or cancer are at higher risk of getting depression.
Her advice is to be always be socially and mentally active so that you are not overwhelmed by emotions such as fear, anger, jealousy, guilt and anxiety. Dr Nurashikin also stressed on the importance of good parenting skills and to be aware of signs such as hurting oneself which is a cry for help.
To end the session, a panel discussion was held where questions raised by the audience included the jail term penalty faced by those who attempt suicide, a sharing on one’s personal experience and queries on medicine prescriptions for suicidal people.
-Take suicidal threats seriously
-If the person is suicidal, do not leave the person unaccompanied.
– Listen and give them a shoulder to cry on
– Do not give responses such as “Don’t be silly
– Refer him/her for medical assistance
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