There is a rising trend of suicidal rates amongst urbanites, according to the Malaysian Mental Health Association (MMHA).

Based on the National Health and Morbidity Survey in 2015, the prevalence of mental health problems among adults increased from 10.7% to 29.2% from years 1996 to 2015. A total of 425 cases of suicide were reported last year, with hanging being the most common method of suicide.

Financial, academic and relationship-related pressures are main causes

As stated by Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj, deputy president of MMHA, mental illnesses such as depression are on a worrying upward trend amongst the urban population in Malaysia, with the urban poor especially prone to mental health problems.

“The sense of hopelessness from economic hardship and financial distress, stress related to school performance and exams, as well as stress after a break-up of a relationship, are the main causes of suicides,” he said.

“In the case of teenagers, the suicidal tendency is driven by pressure to succeed academically,” he added.

The MMHA stressed that Malaysia does not have adequate holistic mental health care services which serves as an important tool to manage suicide prevention. The shortage of mental health experts in the country also mean that organisations, government clinics and hospitals that provide treatment and counselling to patients with mental health concerns are heavily burdened by the overwhelming number of patients.

Suicide rates among students rising due to anxiety and lack of awareness

The Health Ministry also recently revealed statistics that showed worsening state of mental health problems among students in Malaysia, from one in ten individuals in 2011 to one in five in 2016.

Mental health expert Dr Mohd Suhaimi Mohamad commented that a prolonged state of mental health concerns can cause students to be inclined to commit suicide. “Low self-confidence as a result could cause a student to be in a state of worry and stress, coupled with the pressure from parents and teachers who drive them to be competitive,” he said.

“Besides studies, the fear of embarrassment over any matter could push students towards extreme consternation,” he added.

There is also a lack of awareness on mental health in addition to stigma against mental health treatment in Malaysia, stressed Mohanraj, who is concerned that failure to wholly address these issues will lead to poor management of people with mental health concerns and prevent suicides.

“A supportive community reduces the barrier in getting professional help and acknowledging mental health problem is vital for treatment and recovery,” he added.

In 2012, the government initiated the five-year National Suicide Prevention Strategic Action Plan with aims to increase the current ratio of psychiatrists to population by three-folds from 1: 150,000 to a more ideal 1: 50,000. Under the action plan, the ministry also plans to reduce stigmatisation and increase the availability of mental health services to the public by migrating availability of treatment from hospitals to community mental health centres.

“Having a strong supportive environment with family and friends around the patients can help them move on from mental health problems,” Mohanraj concluded. MIMS


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