Incidence of mental illness expected to rise as Sarawak develops

Dr Sim (third left) officiates at the World Mental Health Day 2017 Celebration themed "Mental Health in Workplace" held at International College of Advanced Technology Sarawak (i-CATS) West Campus here today.

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KUCHING, Oct 28: Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian warns that as Sarawak becomes more developed, the incidence of mental health issues will get worse.

Sharing on his recent trip to China, he said mainland China saw a case whereby a 14-year-old led his three younger siblings to commit suicide.

He said the issue with this family was not due to the lack of money but rather the fact that mental health cases which are social issues would rise when societies become more prosperous.

The incident he said happened in a relatively small town in China (the town has an 8 million population) where there were 50,000 ‘orphans’, like the four who committed suicide.

They are termed as ‘orphans’ not because they have no parents but rather, their parents are away in other cities working.

Dr Sim said 50,000 of these children means 50,000 problems if not tackled properly.

“On a global level, one in four people will likely experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives. Stigma towards mental illnesses has been adding salt to the wound by decreasing the chances of people seeking proper diagnosis and treatment.

“For example, according to a 2008 survey in Canada, just 50 per cent of Canadians would tell friends or co-workers that they have a family member with a mental illness, compared to 72 per cent who would discuss a diagnosis of cancer and 68 per cent who would talk about a family member having diabetes,” said Dr Sim at the World Mental Health Day 2017 Celebration event themed “Mental Health in the Workplace” held at International College of Advanced Technology Sarawak (i-CATS) West Campus here today.

The one-day event is organised by Mental Health Association of Sarawak, Sarawak General Hospital, Sentosa Hospital, and Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS).

Based on the Malaysian National Health and Morbidity Survey 2015, every three in 10 adults aged 16 and above have some kind of mental health problem (29.2 per cent).

The prevalence of mental health problems among adults increased from 10.7 per cent in 1996 to 11.2 per cent in 2006, to 29.2 per cent in 2015.

Mental illness is expected to be the second biggest health problem affecting Malaysians after heart diseases by 2020. — DayakDaily