Mental illness set to rise if preventive measures not taken


PREVENTING MENTAL ILLNESS: Fatimah speaking to reporters while Dr Gan (left) and MHAS president Datuk Wee Hong Seng look on. — Photo by Kong Jun Liung

KUCHING: Around 10 per cent of Sarawak’s population suffer from some kind of mental illness.

This was revealed by Minister of Welfare, Women and Family Development Datuk Fatimah Abdullah, who pointed out that the figure is expected to increase if preventive measures are not taken and the stigma on those who suffer from the illness continues to exist.

“With the number of mental patients increasing, the Sarawak Welfare Department (JKM) is looking to collaborate with the Mental Health Association of Sarawak (MHAS) particularly from the aspects of prevention and rehabilitation that not only affects the patients but also their families,” she told reporters during a press conference following a visit to the association’s half-way home here yesterday.

“Mental patients, especially high risk ones or those who have been categorised to be at the highest stage, should be given counselling to avoid serious social problems from occurring such as committing suicide and abuse,” said Fatimah.

Meanwhile, consultant psychiatrist Dr Gan Chee Kuan disclosed that the 2006 National Health and Mobility Survey revealed that 9.2 per cent of Sarawakians suffer from mental illness in comparison to 11.2 per cent throughout Malaysia.

“Those with mental illness comprise those between the ages of 18 and 65 with the majority of them living in urban areas,” he said, citing stress and lifestyle as some of the reasons.

“Every one of us will be faced with mental health problems in our lives, each at different stages and it does not necessarily mean that it’s extreme and usually associated with insanity.”

He pointed out that early treatment followed by counselling sessions and rehabilitation would ensure that mental patients lead normal lives again.

“Nevertheless, the general advice here is for those who suffer from mental illness to acknowledge that there is a problem and only then they can find ways to reduce the stress,” advised Dr Gan.