KUCHING: Stigma prevents people from seeking help for any mental health conditions they may have and remains the biggest barrier in the nation’s goal to improve mental healthcare in Malaysia, said Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Minister Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah.
“Stigma even drives families to confine family members with mental disorder to locked rooms without medical intervention of any form,” she added.
Speaking at the 5th Sarawak Mental Health Conference held at Imperial Hotel here today, she said that various prevention strategies have been initiated, including World Mental Health Day.
“Mental health promotion activities can be undertaken in various settings, including schools, work places and public areas; and with specific target groups like children and adolescents, women, working adults and the elderly,” she said in her speech.
Fatimah added that mental disorders are a public health problem, and everybody’s problem.
“In our aspiration to become a developed country, we must not lose sight of mental health development,” Fatimah said, adding that for the next conference, community leaders should also be roped so they can be made aware.
The two-day conference begins today and is themed, ‘Broadening the Horizons of Mental Health in the Community’.
According to Organising Chairperson Dr Rosliwati Md Yusoff, the conference will cover various topics in mental health issues in the community.
“We hope that the workshops, plenaries and symposiums will benefits all present throughout the conference,” she said.
Around 245 delegates joined the conference while 230 delegates attended the pre-conference workshop.
Delegates were made up of formal caregivers such as medical professionals, and informal caregivers such as family or relatives of people with mental disorders. Teachers, school, counselors, social workers, and members of the public and NGOs were also in attendance.
Also present were The Mental Health Foundation consultant psychiatrist and executive director Dato Abdul Aziz Abdullah, 5th Sarawak Mental Health Conference advisor and Hospital Sentosa director and senior consultant psychiatrist Dr Ismail Drahman.