KUCHING, Oct 7: Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii is urging the government to invest in preventive and treatment measures for mental illness, especially among adolescents.
Pointing out that there is a strong social stigma attached to mental problems and that people with mental health problems tend to experience discrimination in all aspects of their lives, he said the government needed to step in to resolve this issue.
He said he had raised in Parliament issues of mental health and measures and intentions of the government to invest in this field.
“Investments by governments and the involvement of the social, health and education sectors in comprehensive, integrated, evidence-based programmes for the mental health, whether in young people or even the elderly, is essential.
“This investment should be linked to programmes to raise awareness among adolescents and young adults on ways to look after their mental health and to help peers, parents and teachers know how to support their friends, children and students,” said Dr Yii.
He said this when launching the Healthy Mind Charity Run 2.0 2018 at Kuching Waterfront here this morning. The run is held in conjunction with the World Mental Health Day 2018, which falls on Oct 10.
Dr Yii explained that half of all mental illness worldwide begins by the age of 14, but most cases went undetected and untreated.
He said in terms of the burden of the disease among adolescents, depression was the leading cause while suicide was the second leading cause of death among 15 to 29-year-olds.
“Harmful use of alcohol and illicit drugs among adolescents is a major issue in many countries and can lead to risky behaviours such as unsafe sex or dangerous driving. Eating disorders are also a concern,” said Dr Yii.
Fortunately, he said there had been a growing recognition of the importance of helping young people build mental resilience from the earliest ages in order to cope with the challenges of today’s world.
He said evidence had been growing that promoting and protecting adolescent health would bring benefits not just to their health both in short term and long term but also to economies and society, with healthy young adults able to make greater contributions to the workforce, their families and communities and society as a whole.
Dr Yii also stressed that society should play its part in addressing this issue holistically and comprehensively by breaking the stigma.
“As we encourage those suffering from mental illness to speak out, as we empower them that it is not weakness to seek help, it is equally or even more important for us to break the stigma and prejudice we may have the moment they speak out,” he said.
He hoped that awareness programmes and initiatives would be a catalyst to recognise mental illness sufferers and improve societies’ acceptance and respect for the sufferers.
“Mental health is just as important as physical health,” said Dr Yii. — DayakDaily