Subang Jaya-based SJ Care Warriors train community to address mental health issues

Original article on The Malay Mail, 23rd May 2019 by Milad Hassandarvish

KUALA LUMPUR, May 23 — Recognising the severity of mental health issues in Malaysia, a team of medical and non-medical volunteers have joined hands to kick off a mental wellness initiative called SJ Care Warriors.

Initiated by Subang Jaya assemblywoman Michelle Ng, the movement is aimed at addressing the issues of mental illness from a community-based wellness approach focusing on resilience-building.

Although it starts in Subang Jaya, they hope to expand the initiative nationwide.         

It also has a strong message for Malaysians from all walks of life: “Do not suffer in silence.”

According to Ng, there are too many incidences of suicide and people living with depression.

“There is a need to build resilience, a resilient community,” she added in a press release.

Ng also recalled visiting a family at a funeral of their child who took her life and what struck her the most was when one of the parents said she wished she knew what to do.

It was then that Ng realised that mental health, wellness and stress management is a knowledge that could be learnt.

The World Health Organisation has estimated that approximately 800,000 people die by suicide each year.

Simply put, that’s one death every 40 seconds.

In Malaysia, police statistics show that there were more than 500 causes of people committing suicide or attempting suicide every year between 2014 and 2018.

Based on the most recent National Health and Morbidity Survey 2017 on mental health among youths in the age group of 13-17 nationwide, 20 per cent of adolescents felt depressed, while 10 per cent had suicidal ideation and 7 per cent had actually attempted suicide.

Battling mental health issues head-on

SJ Care Warriors was launched earlier this year in March, and is now gaining steam with its focus on empowering the community to help themselves and others.

Their programme is a two-pronged approach with gatekeeper training on suicide prevention by a team of clinical psychologists and psychiatrists.

There’s also a team of experts with psychology and counselling background whose role is to provide a bridge to tackle the issues of mental health.

This begins from a wellness-oriented approach to building resilience at the community level and amongst the youth in general.

“This is not just a suicide prevention task force, but also an initiative to empower youths to build resilience by maintaining a healthy mental state,” said Ng.

“The wisdom to know that it is okay to be sad, what can they do when faced with adversity, stress and rejection without hurting themselves.”

Designed by psychologists and backed by universities, the Building Resilience Programme will see volunteer psychologists training counsellors and youth volunteers.

By learning to better manage their mental state of well-being, the youths will be able to empower and impart skills such as creativity in problem-solving; demonstrate empathy, compassion and kindness; and help navigate those in need to the relevant places and avenues where accessible and accurate help is provided accordingly.

All youths who have fully completed the two-day programme will be given a certificate of attendance and a collar pin.

Additionally, the gatekeeper training will help to train community leaders to identify warning signs of suicide.

Where to seek help

According to University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) consultant psychiatrist Dr Amer Siddiq Amer Nordin, there are many places that people with mental health disorders can go to in order to seek help.

Among the places are Health Ministry’s Klinik Kesihatan or Family Medicine Specialist Clinic which provide a referral letter to seek help at the government hospital’s psychiatric clinic.

Alternatively, patients may go to UMMC’s psychiatric clinic which accepts walk-ins on Monday to Friday at between 8am and 10am.

Let’s start discussing #mentalhealthMY

I wanted to start this page with the call to not only continue talking about mental health but now to start discussing about mental health! One platform is through the use of a common hashtag which will allow us to find, document and discuss the many issues we face in either living with a mental health condition or for some of us, to care for those with a mental health problem and/or a mental illness. I think it has been far to long that we have not had the amount of noise and attention that mental health should be getting in order to assist in changing the many issues that can and should be changed when dealing with mental health. Among a few issues of importance includes, insurance for mental health, access to care, role of mental health care providers and also addition of their contribution to the team and more mental health awareness material and campaigns considering Malaysia is reported to have 29.2% of her population with a mental health condition.

So I urge you all to join me through twitter, Facebook and also Instagram using #mentalhealthMY so we can follow the discussion.

Let us all start today!

Amer