Monday September 10, 2012
Taking steps to prevent suicides
By RUBEN SARIO
KOTA KINABALU: A comprehensive approach is being taken to prevent suicides amid an increasing number of such cases over the past four years, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said.
He said the number of suicides had increased steadily from 113 in 2007 to 290 (2008), 328 (2009) and 425 in 2010.
“Malaysians are now exposed to higher levels of stress which may lead to depression. These factors, together with our poor coping skills, may contribute to suicidal behaviour,” he said at a gathering in conjunction with World Suicide Prevention Day here yesterday.
However, the country's suicide rate in terms of population was still considered low at 1.3 per 100,000, compared with Hong Kong and Thailand which stood at 15 and 5.6 per 100,000, respectively.
Liow said measures had been outlined to tackle the situation, including the drawing up of an eight-point National Strategic Action Plan.
They include promoting mental health, improving early detection of mental disorders and suicidal tendencies apart from the treatment of mental disorders.
The other priorities are fostering greater collaboration among various agencies to enhance suicide prevention as well as increasing capacitybuilding among “gatekeepers” such as primary healthcare providers, teachers, counsellors, fire-fighters, policemen and prison officers.
“Teachers play an increasingly important part in these efforts as children are now experiencing more stress due to their lifestyles,” he said.
Liow also noted that last year's National Morbidity Survey showed that there was a higher risk of suicidal behaviour among those aged between 16 and 24, especially among females, as well as the Indian community.
However, he noted that efforts to improve mental healthcare in the country were being hampered by an acute shortage of psychiatrists and clinical psychologists, adding that medical schools had been alerted of the situation.
Liow said the existing ratio of psychiatrists and clinical psychologists in the country was one to 150,000 people and one to 980,000 people, respectively.
“The ideal figure should be one to 50,000 and one to 35,000 people, respectively.”