BY: Michelle Liew
With the awareness of mental health garnering massive attention over the past year, especially the past week, the United Nations Children’s Funds (Unicef) has called for immediate investment to expand mental health services to include upgraded psychological screening and professional support for youths in schools and communities.
Unicef’s representative in Malaysia, Dr Rashed Mustafa Sarwar noted that teenagers aged 15 to 18 are victims of suicide cases in January 2019 and May 2021. This makes up 51% of the 1,708 reported cases.
“The Covid-19 pandemic and mitigation efforts such as the lockdown have had negative effects on the mental health of many, including our youth,” he said as quoted from Free Malaysia Today.
The lockdown has taken a toll on many people and has caused a deprivation from social connections, which is imperative for the growth of children. With online classes becoming the new norm, young people today spend less time interacting with friends. Not to mention, parents who have lost their jobs have in turn poured their stress on their children, causing the family environment to deteriorate.
Dr Rashed acknowledges that mental health concerns have long been neglected when it comes to the well-being of children. This should serve as a reminder to put in more effort to make sure that the future leaders and influencers of Malaysia are safe and well-taken care of.
“There should also be an opportunity to build on parenting programmes to ensure that children from vulnerable families get the support and protection they need at home.
“It is only through a holistic and multi-pronged approach that we can give children the support they need,” he said.
Dr Rashed highlighted several free helplines that young people can call to seek for emotional support:
• Talian Kasih – 15999 (24 hours),
• Talian BuddyBear – 1800-18-2327(BEAR) from 12pm-12am; and
• Befrienders – 03-76272929 (24 hours).