PETALING JAYA: Amplifying education and awareness among the public is key to having a better understanding and appreciation of mental health issues, said Alliance for a Safe Community (Ikatan) chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.

He said mental health issues were usually associated with people who have gone mad, are crazy or senile, but that is the wrong perception to have.

“When people talk about health, they usually mean physical health but neglect the mental health of a person.

“Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, our country has been badly affected and people have lost their jobs, businesses and income, which led to mental health issues such as depression.

“Some of them (could have) felt that they were at the end of the road and the idea of committing suicide (may have) crossed their minds. If we don’t address mental health issues, we will face more problems in the long run.”

Lee said NGOs can help spread awareness and educate the public on mental health issues so as to have a better appreciation and greater understanding of the subject.

“As an advocate of mental health issues, I believe if NGOs work together to push the mental health agenda as their priority, we can help those who are in need.

“We have to engage the public. We must also reach out to those in rural areas to promote it as it is our responsibility. It will be a gigantic task to carry out but if we start now, awareness will eventually grow and we can get the results we are seeking.”

Lee also said the Health Ministry was doing a good job in leading the promotion of mental health awareness.

“They set up the National Mental Health Centre of Excellence to address such issues. The centre will act as a national coordinator where the government and NGOs can plan, strategise and implement programmes to promote mental health wellness. Ikatan will help in whatever way possible,” he said when officiating at a public forum organised by Ikatan recently at Cheras Leisure Mall.

The forum, titled “Mental Well-being for All – Make it a Reality” was held in conjunction with World Mental Health Day, which is globally observed on Oct 10 to create awareness on the issue, advocate against social stigma and mobilise efforts in support of those with mental health issues.

The forum featured psychiatrist Prof Dr Muhammad Muhsin Ahmad Zahari, Health Ministry public health physician Dr Nurashikin Ibrahim, Befrienders Kuala Lumpur counsellor Leow Yew Chong and Mala Davi, a caregiver aiding those with mental issues.

Apart from the forum, there were mental well-being exhibitions at the concourse area organised by UCSI University, Taylor’s University, Sapot (a social care platform), the Laurent Bleu Clinic and V. Flower Enterprise.