Urgent need to focus on depression, says MMA

PETALING JAYA: There is an urgent need to focus on depression especially in addressing the issue of suicide, the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) said today.

In expressing this concern, it pointed out that untreated depression can lead to suicide.

It was recently reported that Malaysia recorded a total 2,426 cases of suicide from 2018 to 31st July 2021. Of this total, 679 involved emotional stress while 385 were related to financial problems.

“MMA once again reiterates the need to repeal Section 309 of the penal code that criminalises attempted suicide,” MMA president Dr. Koh Kar Chai said in a statement today.

“On Wednesday 15th Sept, Datuk Aaron Ago Dagang (Kanowit-GPS), who is also deputy health minister, had told the Dewan Rakyat that amendments to decriminalise suicide or suicide attempts will be tabled in Parliament after they are studied by the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC). MMA is pleased to know that efforts to decriminalise suicide are moving in a forward direction.”

MMA advised the public to seek professional help if they are suffering from depression. It expressed its deep concern as untreated depression can lead to destructive habits or behaviour such as substance abuse, addictions, self-harm and even suicide.

“It is important for the public to be aware that depression is a treatable medical illness and they can be helped by a professional,” Koh said..“They should also not worry about cost in treatment as there is affordable treatment through the services provided by the Ministry of Health through the specialist clinics in the government hospitals, Primary Health Centres throughout the country and also the Community Mental Health Centres.”

Depression is a mood disorder which causes persistent feelings of sadness and lack of interest which can affect how a person thinks, feels and behaves.

It can lead to a variety of emotional, physical and cognitive problems that can prevent a person from performing daily activities and leading a normal life.

Treatment for depression which involves medications, psychotherapy and strengthening social aspects of a person’s life will be tailor made according to each individual’s condition depending on the level of the severity of depression after being assessed by a professional.

“The incidence of depression which has been rising steadily over the years has escalated tremendously since the Covid-19 Pandemic and Movement Control Orders (MCO),” Koh said.

“People have lost their families, livelihood, homes and hope. Now more than ever, society needs to be aware that establishing support is very important.

“We strongly advise that the public reach out for professional help if they are feeling down over a prolonged period.”

As a first step, they can call the Befrienders hotline, visit one of the Community Mental Health Centres (also known as Mentari) or a Primary Health Centre nearest to them, Koh said.

Private General Practitioners are also a good option to seek initial help from as they will also be able to do the preliminary screening and help with the referral if specialist help, in this case a psychiatrist is needed, he added.

“For those who can afford, they can directly make an appointment to consult Psychiatrists practising in private hospitals or running their clinics.

“Various Non-Government Organisations are providing Psychological First Aid (PFA) with the aim to reduce stress symptoms and assist in healthy recovery following a traumatic event.

“Most importantly, people must be aware that they are not alone in their suffering and there are many avenues to seek help from,” Koh said.

MMA urges the public to call any one of the Carelines compiled by the National Coalition for Mental Wellbeing (NCMW) for help. The Carelines can also be viewed via the MySejahtera app:

$!Urgent need to focus on depression, says MMA