By Geryl Ogilvy
KUCHING, May 16: Adolescents are at great risk of depression in schools but unfortunately, mental illness stigma often dissuade them from seeking help or treatment.
Minister of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah said there was a need for society to reach out to depressed youths and teenagers as well as create more public awareness on mental health issues.
In order to counteract adolescent depression in schools and the resulting stigma, she said students, parents and teachers needed to be educated about mental health so that they would be better equipped to help others, offer support and early intervention, as this could even save lives.
“Apart from academic pressure in school, lack of coping skills and less resilience in facing challenges, social media can be a primary source for anxiety and pressure that leads to depression among the young.
“Teens become depressed when they compare their lives with others. Trying to keep up with social media trends can be stressful for the youths.
“In a state of depression, there will be a change in behaviour, anxiety and stress projected by teenagers that is a red flag, which teachers, parents, family and friends should be on the lookout for,” she told reporters after presenting the special ‘Sejambak Kasih’ RM100 welfare aid, here, today.
Fatimah said this in the wake of a 16-year-old teenager who died of an apparent suicide at MJC Batu Kawah on Monday. The victim had jumped from the third floor of a shop lot.
The victim allegedly conducted an online poll via her Instagram account prior to the incident at around 3pm on Monday. She posted a question: “Really Important, Help Me Choose D/L.”
Based on the explanation by her close friends, it was believed that the D had referred to ‘Death’, while the L referred to ‘Live’. The poll result showed 69 per cent for D and 31 per cent for L.
In this regards, Fatimah felt the school or family should not be blamed for the tragedy, saying that someone with depression was able to hide their state of mind and avoiding others.
She agreed that a special counselling service should be created on social media platforms as well as a dedicated helpline service set up for the adolescent age group to complement traditional methods.
This could help reach out to those who do not want to express their problems in public or be met in person.
Fatimah also believed there should be more professional counsellors carrying out talks or sessions with students in schools and also to identify and help those with depression.
“The lesson learned here is that we must be very careful in what we do on social media. This is a wake-up call, as things that look fine can become something serious,” she said.
She described the tragic case as unfortunate, as friends of the victim might not have realised her mental state. She believed that many correspondents who voted in the Instagram poll set up by the deceased might not be aware of the meaning of D and L in her post.
Fatimah advised the public not to interfere with police investigations on the matter.
Meanwhile, the ‘Sejambak Kasih’ festive aid programme, held in conjunction with the upcoming Gawai-Raya 2019 celebration, will see 30,750 state welfare aid recipients receiving RM100 for Hari Gawai Dayak and 15,626 individuals similarly befitting for Hari Raya Aidilfitri.
This RM100 is an addition to the monthly aid from the state Welfare Department under their respective schemes. Sarawak started the ‘Sejambak Kasih’ programme last Chinese New Year.
Two hundred welfare aid recipients were invited to the event to receive their gift, which included a hamper worth RM50. The rest of the eligible recipients will receive the RM100 in their bank accounts.
Fatimah said as of April this year, the state disbursed RM67,314,880 in welfare aid to 56,096 registered recipients. — DayakDaily