Siaw officiates at the mental health talk. Also seen is So (third right).

SIBU: Sibu Resident Charles Siaw expressed his congratulations to the Mental Health Association of Sibu and Neighbourhood Committee (KRT) Pasar Teku for organising a mental health talk and children’s colouring contest here yesterday.

“I congratulate all of you on organising this wonderful event in conjunction with World Mental Health Day.

“It is indeed a unique opportunity for me to join this event which raises awareness on mental health issues,” he said.

Siaw said lately there has been an increase of suicides, as well as suicide attempts, within the community.

He added that as the issue has become a world-wide problem, World Health Organisation has made the theme for World Mental Health Day 2019 as suicide prevention.

“It is important to understand that mental health issues affect people from all walks of life,” he said.

According to him, promoting mental health and well-being requires an understanding of cultural diversity, including respecting differences and a willingness to learn and accept different ways of viewing the world.

He said many people still have a fundamental misunderstanding of what mental illness is.

“I think the biggest and most important challenge we face in improving mental health is overcoming these misunderstandings.

“We need to reach a point where the general public understands the nature of mental illness,” said Siaw.

Siaw officiates at the mental health talk. Also seen is So (third right).

Meanwhile, he said that close to 800,000 people die by suicide every year. Furthermore, he said for each suicide, there are more than 20 suicide attempts.

Suicide does not just occur in high income countries, but is a global phenomenon, he added.

“In fact, over 70 per cent of global suicides occurred in low and middle-income countries in 2016.

“In 2016, suicide was found to be the second leading cause of death among those aged between 15 and 29 globally,” he said.

Suicides and suicide attempts have a ripple effect that impacts families, friends, colleagues, communities and societies, he added.

The prevention of suicide has not been adequately addressed due to a lack of awareness of suicide as a major public health problem and the taboo in many societies to openly discuss it, he said.

To date, he said only a few countries have included suicide prevention among their health priorities and only 38 countries report having a national suicide prevention strategy.

Therefore, he said that raising the community’s awareness and breaking down the taboo is important for countries to make progress in preventing suicide.

“Today, we can all do our own bit to educate ourselves about mental illness, the ways we can be supportive and help people who are suffering from it.

“We can educate ourselves and start to think about how we can be more welcoming and more understanding — a better friend or neighbour or colleague to someone who is struggling and who may need someone to turn to,” he said.

Mental Health Association of Sibu chairman Kapitan So Teck Kee was among those present at the event.