SIBU: A pilot project ‘Healthy Mind Programme’ has been implemented in several secondary schools to screen for severe symptoms of depression.
A member of Mental Health Promotion Advisory Council Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said students who were detected to have symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression would be given appropriate interventions, which included counselling and mental health-coping skills, in order to prevent the problem from snowballing into full-blown mental disorders.
Citing the National Health Morbidity Survey (NHMS) carried out in 2006, he said that the percentage of children and adolescents inflicted with some form of mental health problems had climbed to 20.3 per cent, from 13 per cent a decade earlier.
“The survey also showed that 14.4 per cent of the youngest respondents (between 16 and 19 years old) were also more prone to having mental health problems than the rest of the age groups.
“Hence, the findings from the pilot project (carried out in six secondary schools) should enable the government to gauge the actual state of mental health among students and decide on the best course of action to address mental health issues in the schools,” Lee said in a press statement yesterday.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has predicted depression would become one of the largest health problems worldwide by 2020.
Lee also mentioned that the National Suicide Registry Malaysia had revealed that suicide cases had climbed to 290 in 2008, from 113 in 2007.
He also observed that the increase in stress levels in schools, workplaces and elsewhere was one of the main causative factors of mental disorders.
Lee suggested that schools have more trained counsellors to guide and help students on about how to handle stress and how to cope with the many challenges of life.
Mental-health promotion activities that could be implemented in schools included promoting mental-health literacy through talks, exhibitions and quizzes. They could be organised as a form of extracurricular activities and should involve, among others, parent-teacher associations (PTAs) and school clubs.
Lee lamented that the current examination-based education system had also stressed children up.
“The issue of mental health among students must be addressed with a sense of urgency. If they do not get our help, our nation is going to be burdened with a generation suffering from serious mental health problems in an ever-increasing competitive global environment.”
He cautioned that no country or person is immune to mental health problems and their impact in psychological, social and economic terms is high.
“We need to do more to promote mental health in the country as mental health promotion improves the quality of life. We need to instill basic self-confidence in the child so that any failures or disappointments will be seen as opportunities to try again rather than as a lack of ability and taking the road to disaster.”