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Ministry of Health Deputy Director General of Public Health to Launch Mental Health Public Forum tomorrow

 In conjunction with World Mental Health Day in October, Sunway Education Group’s Counselling and Wellness unit is hosting a public forum with top leaders from the field on Oct 21 titled “Prioritising Mental Health and Community Resilience in Times of Uncertainty” as part of its RE. Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Campaign from 18th to 22nd of October 2021 in collaboration with MERCY Malaysia.

The campaign is a response to COVID-19 as not only an immense physical health crisis but its psychological effects on individuals and communities. As Malaysia entered its fourth month of movement curbs, some children and adolescents are finding it hard to navigate the uncertainty and isolation. 

According to the PDRM the number of suicide deaths raised from 609 in 2019 to 631 in 2020. As of July 2021, there have been 638 suicide deaths reported to the police, compared to 262 cases between January and July 2020. In other words, this is an increase of 143% or 1.4 times more. The campaign will include a series of activities that allow the participants to recharge and reconnect, a suicide prevention workshop that educates participants to support peers with suicidal ideation, and a personal space for individuals to seek help through peer support and self-help resources, will be held and open for Sunway students during the entire week. 

The public forum which will be launched by Ministry of Health Malaysia Deputy Director General of Public Health Datuk Dr Chong Chee Kheong will be held on ‘Sunway Education Counselling & Wellness’ Facebook livestream on the October 21 from 8.00 pm – 10.30 pm. 

The forum’s panellists will be Sunway Education CEO Professor Elizabeth Lee, University Malaya Psychiatry and Consultant Psychiatrist Associate Professor Dr Amer Siddiq Amer Nordin; Mercy Malaysia Professor Dato’ Dr. Ahmad Faizal Mohd. Perdaus President of Mercy Malaysia; World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office Technical Leaf for the Mental Health and Substance use programme for the Western Pacific Martin Vandendyck, and The Mind Psychological Services and Training Director and clinical psychologist Dr. Joel Low as the forum moderator. 

Sunway Education Group Chief Executive Officer, Professor Elizabeth Lee said that the campaign is important as, “We need to tell people that it is alright to be uncertain. We should take challenges as opportunities to explore more and think differently to manage our expectations. We hope that the platform will help  continue to support community action, strengthening social cohesion and solidarity. With the forum, the experts will look forward to share and healthy coping strategies that reduces loneliness, and promotes psychosocial well-being.”

World Health Organisation (WHO) Technical Lead for Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Martin Vandendyck said, “During the time I’ve spent in Asia, when people experience distress or symptoms of common mental disorders, it’s sometimes difficult for them to directly talk about what they’re feeling. They will say they have pain or a headache or a stomach-ache, but for the first time ever, since the beginning of last year – starting with colleagues in our office – people were saying it out loud: I’m so stressed,” said Martin Vandendyck, a World Health Organisation (WHO) Technical Lead for Mental Health and Substance Use. 

Mercy Malaysia President, Professor Dato’ Dr. Ahmad Faizal Mohd Perdaus said, “Many people who struggle with mental disorder are not only challenged by the difficulties of the illness itself, but continuously face public discrimination. Due to this stigma, people avoid talking about their mental health and inadvertently isolate themselves to deal with their illness on their own, escalating the illness even more.”

"Therefore, dialogues and campaigns like the one organised jointly by MERCY Malaysia and Sunway Education Group are crucial as they initiate conversations and awareness around mental health, especially at a very young age. By fostering such support, would we ensure a mentally healthy society  and environment of the future,” added Dato’ Dr Ahmad Faizal.

The forum aims to provide an avenue for the government, mental health practitioners, and community representatives to come together, discuss and co-create support strategies. It serves as a platform to foster social dialogue about the different initiatives and community-led response systems that have been implemented in supporting those who are affected during the pandemic, the challenges faced while rendering mental health services and build community resilience through collaboration. Stakeholders including mental health practitioners, administrators, students, non-profitable organizations, communities, policy-makers and researchers in Malaysia are encouraged to participate in the forum.

Members of the public who would like participate in the forum can log on to