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Rashed said Unicef in Malaysia is already working to address the issue including partnering with the Ministry of Education together with the International Association of Counseling Malaysia to strengthen the capacity of school counsellors and special education teachers in providing mental health and psychosocial support services for school children, parents and teachers. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Rashed said Unicef in Malaysia is already working to address the issue including partnering with the Ministry of Education together with the International Association of Counseling Malaysia to strengthen the capacity of school counsellors and special education teachers in providing mental health and psychosocial support services for school children, parents and teachers. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 14 — Commitment and investment from various parties in changing the trajectory of mental health care in Malaysia is needed, said United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Representative for Malaysia and Special Representative for Brunei Darussalam, Dr Rashed Mustapha Sarwar.

He said the investment should not only be financial but also in terms of time and changing the shape of mentality and stigma of Malaysians in providing adolescent mental health and psychosocial support.

“We are breaking the silence surrounding mental illness. It is not a taboo topic, but one we must address openly, truthfully, and most of all with kindness.

“It is not just up to those who are affected to speak out. We must listen, gently, and kindly, without judgment. Create a caring environment for young people to seek help and express their problems,” he said in his opening remarks in conjunction with the launch of the Unicef report — “The State of World’s Children 2021; On My Mind: Promoting, Protecting and Caring for Children’s Mental Health” at Wisma Bernama, today.

Rashed said Unicef in Malaysia is already working to address the issue including partnering with the Ministry of Education together with the International Association of Counseling Malaysia (Perkama) to strengthen the capacity of school counsellors and special education teachers in providing mental health and psychosocial support services for school children, parents and teachers.

Besides that, Unicef has also partnered with the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN) to produce modules to strengthen parenting support which includes how to help parents cope with child online protection.

Dr Rashed said effective parenting has a critical role in mitigating mental health problems that children might face.

Unicef is well placed as the biggest organisation on children’s rights, operating in 190 countries with local partners in governments, civil society, and businesses to take action.

Meanwhile, Perkama president Datuk Dr Abdul Halim Mohd Hussin said the association came up with 14 modules to train school counselors and special education teachers in Malaysia in providing mental health support.

“Among the 14 modules is character-building: self-motivation; tele psychosocial support; children protection issues and procedures; positive parenting styles and gender based violence training,” he said during an inter-generational discussion in conjunction with the launch of Unicef report.

Abdul Halim said Malaysia has a good policy in supporting mental health including having one counselor for every 500 students in schools, but he suggested one counselor for every 300 students would be better.

According to the latest global estimates, more than one in seven adolescents aged 10 to 19 are estimated to live with a diagnosed mental disorder globally while almost 46,000 adolescents die from suicide each year, which is among the top five causes of death for their age group. — Bernama

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