Don’t despair, help is near

Fatimah (left) speaking at the press conference. At second left is Community Wellbeing Assistant Minister Datuk Francis Harden Hollis. Photo: Ramidi Subari

KUCHING: “If you are in despair or have suicidal thoughts, remember you are not alone because help is available through various platforms for you.”

This is the advice of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Minister Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah to members of the public after expressing her concern over the rise in reported suicide cases in Sarawak.

She said based on the police records, there were 37 suicide cases by May this year compared to 26 suicide cases in 2018, 36 cases in 2019 and 46 cases last year.  

She was speaking at a press conference on the establishment of the Community CHAT service at her office at Baitul Makmur II building Monday (July 12).

From the records, most of the cases involved males aged 18 and above, she added.

Fatimah said from January to May this year, there were as many as seven cases of attempted suicide recorded in the state while 15 attempted suicide cases each were recorded in 2018 and 2019, and 12 in 2020.

“There are multiple factors contributing to suicide risk. Besides Covid-19 fatigue, we need to look at the economic and mental health issues which vary from stress, anxiety, depression to suicidal behaviour,” she said.

Fatimah acknowledged the pandemic had affected the mental health of everyone from children to adults.

“Due to the pandemic, even children in primary schools are also affected. I have reports from parents that their children have become withdrawn.

“We think that children are not affected, but they are, too. So, we need to educate parents to be on the lookout for symptoms if their children are affected,” she said, adding that children might be stressed due to the lack of socialisation.

To address mental health issues in Sarawak, the minister added that since May last year to this month, about 47 mental health related programmes had been carried out by the various agencies including the government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

“For the same period, 634 counselling cases were handled by various agencies and NGOs in the state,” she said.

Fatimah added that the Sarawak Development Council also conducted a study on the community’s mental health including the effects of Covid-19 pandemic in order to prepare an action plan to address mental health problems in the state.

“We don’t want to see the suicide cases increasing. We want to tackle the issue when it is still in the budding stage,” she said.

Meanwhile, those who seek help and support can contact Sarawak Social Welfare Department’s Community CHAT service at 082- 311554 which is available 24 hours; the Mental Health Association (MHA) Kuching (082-231459); Befrienders Kuching (082-242800); Sarawak Women and Family Department Helpline (082-448866/1800-22-5566 (tollfree)/wkshelp@gmail.com); Ministry of Health (MOH) and Mercy Malaysia Volunteer’s Covid-19 Psychological Support Line (011-63996482/011-63994236/03-29359935); Talian Kasih (15999); Sarawak Women for Women Society Crisis Line (082-422660); Bodhi Counselling — 082-256428/256429  or Grace Centre Kuching (082-256411).

Statistics on suicide attempts and suicides.