Providing more comprehensive mental health support in Sarawak

Fatimah (seated right) having a discussion with Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development permanent secretary Dr Rashidah Bolhassan (seated centre) as State Social Welfare Department director Noriah Ahmad (seated left) and others look on. Photo: Ramidi Subari

KUCHING: The Sarawak Social Welfare Department’s (JKMS) tele-counselling service, which has been in operation since March 2020, has been rebranded as the ‘Community CHAT Service’ to provide more comprehensive mental health support to the community statewide.

Minister of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah said that initially the tele-counselling service was only for workers affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

She said now with the Community CHAT (Counselling, Help, At Time) service, it would be extended to the community in collaboration with other agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the state. 

“Through this service, we want to help individuals, students, families and communities who feel stressed, worried, depressed and those who are affected by the pandemic,” she told a press conference on the Community CHAT service at her office at Baitul Makmur II building on Monday (July 12).

Explaining how the Community CHAT worked, Fatimah said, “The community are encouraged to fill the DASS-21 form which means (Depression, Anxiety, Stress) Scale to measure the level of the three matters and the results will be informed through e-mail. They will be further accessed by the respective Psychological Support Team (PST) or Sahabat Psychological Support Team (sPST), and those detected with high levels of depression, anxiety and stress will be called for intervention, counselling or psychological support on the phone.

“There are 420 trained and skilled psychologists or counsellors from various agencies involved in this service.

“Among them are those from the National Anti-Drug Agency Sarawak, Sarawak State Education Department, Sarawak Health Department, Royal Malaysian Police Sarawak (PDRM), Sarawak Mental Health Association (MHAS), local universities and trained volunteers,” she said.

Fatimah added the DASS-21 form could be downloaded by scanning the QR code available at JKMS’s Facebook page or by downloading through the link at http://bit.do/Versi-BM-BI for English and Bahasa Melayu, or http://bit.do/Versi-Iban-Chinese for Mandarin or Iban.

“We understand that the pandemic has affected everybody, including those who lose their job and sources of income and other businesses, while some people may feel despair.

“We hope that by offering such tele-counselling services, more will receive help so that social issues such as suicides in the state can be addressed,” she said.

Those who need to use the Community CHAT service may contact JKMS’s operational room at 082-311554, which is the only main line that is operational 24 hours.

For JKMS Kuching Division, contact 082-507111/082-612173/082-628055/082-843240, for Samarahan Division (082-671191), Sarikei (084-651005), Limbang (085-211930), Betong/Sri Aman (083-471952), Sibu/Mukah/Kapit (084-330675), Miri (085-424534/085-611507).