Tuesday, August 20

Young people with depression problems growing — Dr Lau


GOTONG ROYONG: CMSB staff helping to clear the drain at the compound of the temporary shelter of MHAS in Kuching.

KUCHING: There used to be a time when depression typically only happened to those aged 40 years and above, but modernity has altered the equation.

Statistics now show that those in their early 20s or 30s are no longer immune to this mental illness.

Studies have shown that people with depression problems are getting younger, said Dr Lau Kim Kah, chairman of Mental Health Association of Sarawak (MHAS) Kuching branch.

He lamented that although most mental illnesses were “highly treatable with medication and counselling”, many patients never dared to seek help due to the social stigma.

“The longer the illness is left untreated, the more damage it could do to the person as well as to the society,” cautioned Dr Lau, who is also director of Hospital Sentosa.

“The earlier the illness is detected, the higher the chances of recovery.”

Dr Lau shared these views with staff of Cahya Mata Sarawak Bhd (CMSB) at the temporary premises of MHAS in Jalan Stakan, Kota Sentosa, here yesterday.

A total of 117 CMSB staff had gathered at the centre to help to clean the centre. The company also donated a metric tonne of cement for maintenance purposes.

Dr Lau described mental illness as “quite common thing” in the world, and that depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder were the top three

One in every six individuals in the world has mental problems, Dr Lau said, citing reports from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

On MHAS’s dream of having a building of their own for mental patients, Dr Lau hoped that CMSB could lend a helping hand.

He said association had thus far raised about RM500,000, but the proposed project needed between RM2 million and RM3 million.

“The government has given us a piece of land, but it is too small. A land of three acres in size would be nice,” he said.

“We will submit our request to the government to have bigger land. We will submit our proposal sometime this month.”

Dr Lau said new home would not only be used to accommodate mental patients but would also be used as a training centre to arm the residents with skills to help them gain employment.

“We hope to have a drop-in centre at the new home as well so that people with mental illness would have a place to interact. It would also be a resource centre to complement existing service provided by the government.”

Dr Lau opined that the current location in Jalan Stakan was ideal because it was near to a polyclinic and there were shophouses nearby. In addition, there was a bus service.

“I hope the government could find us a bigger place in this location.”

MHAS has three branches in the state. Besides the Kuching branch, the other two are in Sibu and Miri. The association was established in 1968, gets an annual grant of RM30,000 from the state government, but its annual expenses are about RM80,000.

For more information, MHAS Kuching branch could be reached at 082-615387.