The rising prevalence of mental disorders in Malaysia indicates a growing crisis.
The government’s 2015 National Health and Morbidity Survey found that a third of adults in Malaysia suffered from mental health problems. This was a three-fold increase from a decade earlier. Mental disorders and suicide rates have risen over the same period. Urgent action must be made to tackle this growing concern.
There are many issues on mental health which need to be addressed and can make an enormous difference. For example, Section 309 of the Penal Code criminalises any person who attempts suicide with imprisonment of up to one year, with a fine, or both. This worsens the mental health of those put through the criminal justice system, and discourages people from coming forward for treatment due to fear of prosecution. Criminalisation has not proven to help. Decriminalising by repealing Section 309 must be made a priority.
Most SOPs, emphasize on using physical, even brutal or harsh measures, of handling mentally ill people, such as the usage of straitjackets by the police. This must stop.
This policy brief highlights patient-centric opportunities to improve the response to mental health issues. It outlines short-term and long-term recommendations for consideration by policymakers.
- Decriminalise suicide by removing Section 309 of the Penal Code
- Increase budget for hospital-based psychiatric services to 2.4% of total national health budget in Budget 2020
- Amend relevant clinical guidelines to ensure psychotherapy is introduced as a first line of treatment alongside pharmacotherapy
- Develop empathic guidelines and modules to train first responders on handling people with mental illnesses
- Enable welfare aid and OKU status applications in hospitals
- Establish multi-ministerial and multi-sectoral mechanisms on mental health
- Improve national data and monitoring of mental health disorders
The Policy Brief can be downloaded here.