Seek help, mental health patients urged

Dr Syarifah Hafizah points out the various major hospitals throughout Sarawak where psychiatric services can be sought.

KUCHING: Many options for mental health services are available throughout Sarawak and those who may need such services should not be afraid to come forward and seek help. 

Dr Syarifah Hafizah Wan Kassim, consultant psychiatrist at Sentosa Hospital, said that apart from Sentosa Hospital, there were nine other major hospitals in the state which offered psychiatric services.

“We have Sentosa Hospital, Sarawak General Hospital, Serian Hospital, Sri Aman Hospital, Sarikei Hospital, Sibu Hospital, Bintulu Hospital, Kapit Hospital, Miri Hospital, and Limbang Hospital,” she said.

She explained that some of these hospitals also covered nearby areas — for instance, Sri Aman Hospital also covers Betong.

“This means that we do visit the smaller hospitals in the districts and we also visit the klinik kesihatan (health clinics). So, the accessibility is there,” she said.

She said this during an online session themed ‘A Dialogue on Mental Health: Meeting the Needs of Greater Sarawak’ organised and livestreamed by Mental Health Association of Sarawak (MHAS) via its Facebook page on Saturday (Oct 16).

Apart from hospitals, Dr Syarifah said there were also four community mental health centres (Mentari), available in Sarawak — in Petra Jaya, Bintulu, Miri, and Jalan Oya in Sibu.

Dr Syarifah Hafizah speaks during the session.

“At Mentari, they do mental health promotion such as talks and exhibitions as well as mental health assessment screening so that early detection and treatment can be done,” she said.

These centres also conduct rehabilitation for patients such as helping patients in obtaining job placements.

In addition, she said the klinik kesihatan could also be an avenue in seeking mental health assistance as most of these clinics are led by a family medicine specialist.

“Usually, we work together with these family medicine specialists. They can refer to us directly and we do receive calls from them to consult about the cases they see.”

She said it was good that physical health and mental health could be integrated at these klinik kesihatan, whereby people could visit to undergo screening and assessment of their mental health.

She pointed out that there were also private hospitals and clinics where mental health services could be sought, especially in the urban centres of Kuching, Sibu, Bintulu, and Miri.

“Assessment can also be done with your general practitioner or family doctor. Some of them will also refer to us and discuss, and if they are not confident to handle a particular case, we will accept the case,” said Dr Syarifah.

“If you, your family members, or your friends are having some mental health issues, do not be afraid to come forward to seek help. It is available,” she encouraged.

For more information on mental health, she said people could refer to a number of Facebook pages such as MHAS, Sentosa Hospital, Mentari, and Laman Minda as well as the Sarawak Mental Health Information Centre on Telegram.

“At these links, you can learn about tips to handle mental health such as grounding techniques, relaxation techniques, and so on,” she said.

She said there were also psychosocial hotlines where people could seek mental health support, such as Befrienders, Buddy Bear, Mercy Malaysia, and so on.