Mental health of great concern, especially in Covid-19 era

It is high time the government pushed for reforms on policies concerning suicide and mental health as more Malaysians grapple with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Befrienders Kuala Lumpur patron Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said there must be a sense of urgency, especially in decriminalising suicide.

Lee, who is a member of the Health Ministry’s Mental Health Advisory Panel, said the ministry only has a unit to look into matters concerning mental health

“The unit must be beefed up to be a full-fledged department but it all depends on funding,” Lee said.

“The ministry should be given a bigger allocation to promote mental health advocacy and activities and the health minister should push for this.”

According to the World Health Organisation, about 90 per cent of suicide cases are associated with mental disorder.

“We are hearing about suicide cases and also people being fined or even jailed for attempted suicide.

“The government is talking about the economy and offering help to those who have lost their jobs. We also need to understand that mental health is of great concern and if left unattended, will become a big problem,” Lee said.

On Tuesday, an unemployed 28-year-old man was fined RM3,000 by the Kuala Lumpur magistrate’s court for attempted suicide. Lee said imposing a fine or even sending someone who wanted to commit suicide to jail is a “double tragedy”.

“This person needs help. Imposing a fine is not going to help him,” he said, adding Malaysia is among a handful of nations that still criminalise attempted suicide.

He said death in a family, whether by suicide or other ways, usually leaves a trail of upheaval in its wake, affecting family members, close friends and even social communities to varying extents.

“Suicide, by its unique nature, exacerbates the emotional turmoil of all those affected. Those who have the ideation of suicide should be counselled and treated instead of being punished.”

Former law minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong had in February said the government hoped to table amendments to the Penal Code as early as middle of this year to decriminalise attempted suicide.

However, current law minister Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan said in Parliament last month the Attorney-General’s Chambers was still studying the matter.

On Monday, a 35-year-old pilot is believed to have taken his life two months after he was retrenched.

Suicide is among the top 10 causes of death globally. Someone commits suicide somewhere in the world every 40 seconds.

Malaysia records about 2,000 suicides a year – or five a day.

If you have emotional issues and need to talk to someone, contact Befrienders at +603-76272929.

Here’s a round-up of The News Normal today.

HISHAMMUDDIN IS SORRY FOR VAPING

Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein apologised on Twitter after a video of him vaping during a parliamentary session made its rounds.

“Sorry, I didn’t realise – it’s a new habit. I apologise to the Dewan and promise to not do it again,” he tweeted.

In the eight-second video, Hishammuddin, was seen taking a puff underneath his face mask while Transport Minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong was speaking.

ACTION AGAINST 31 FOR VIOLATING HOME QUARANTINE

Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said police have taken action against 31 people for violating home quarantine orders under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act.

Investigation papers on the cases have been sent to the Attorney-General’s Chambers. He also said 2,018 spot checks were carried out yesterday on those under mandatory home quarantine.

COVID-19 BILL TABLED IN PARLIAMENT

The Temporary Measures for Government Financing [Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19)] Bill 2020 was tabled in the Dewan Rakyat for first reading by Finance Deputy Minister Mohd Shahar Abdullah.

The bill covers temporary spending and financing to deal with the impact of the pandemic.

CODIFYING CONTEMPT LAW RIGHT MOVE, SAYS MALAYSIAN BAR

The Malaysian Bar is pleased that the government will look into drafting a special law to deal with cases related to contempt of court.

Malaysian Bar president Salim Bashir said the issue of contempt has been of concern for decades.

“The vague elements of common law governing contempt of court have to be codified to provide a clear and unequivocal definition of legal concepts, and a fair and clear law formulated,” said Salim.

He also said the Malaysian Bar will be updating the draft legislation that it had submitted to the Attorney-General’s Chambers and is looking forward to working closely with the government on the matter.

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