You would have to have both of your eyes closed to not see the turmoil that is plaguing the nation as a result of the relentless effects of the pandemic.
From medical and migrant workers dying from suicide to the significant spurt of distress calls received from mental health hotlines, Malaysia is suffering emotionally and mentally.
Even if you don’t frequent social media or news sites, depression is prevalent in not only our loved ones but ourselves as well.
But on social media, it is much more apparent due to the saturation of news covering suicide and mental health issues.
Despite that, only recently did MoH publicly denounce the criminalisation of suicide in Malaysia.
If you were not aware, Section 309 of the Penal Code states that suicide is a crime but the law was enacted in 1936 under the British colonial legacy, back when mental illness was simply seen as a myth.
Under this law, those who attempt suicide are not referred to treatment centres but are instead sentenced to imprisonment or fined or even both. While it is a rarity that these attempts lead to such draconian measures, it does happen.
The law was also rooted in religion due to the Christian belief that once you die from suicide, your soul cannot be saved. This belief is also shared by the Islamic faith.
However, Malaysia is slowly trying to decriminalise suicide and today, in conjunction with World Suicide Prevention Day, the MoH has pledged its support towards revising the archaic law.
Recognising the substantial incline of suicide cases per year, health director-general, Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said decriminalising suicide would encourage those struggling with mental health issues to step forward and seek help.
For reference, in 2019 there were 601 cases of suicide and this year, there are 638 cases from January to July.
That is 638 lives lost and 638 families whose lives have been altered forever.
According to the minister, the MoH is working hard towards kickstarting several initiatives that will eradicate the stigma surrounding suicide as well as instil awareness on suicide prevention.
He said, “Among our initiatives will be to bolster mental health and psychosocial support services through the ministry’s Psychosocial Support Helpline with other NGOs to widen access of these services to individuals who need mental and psychosocial support.
“The ministry will also increase psychology (counselling) officers at the district level and health clinics to strengthen our mental health services and the prevention of violence, injury and abuse of substance.
“We will also provide continuous training to first-line responders that include healthcare workers, police and firemen to hone their skills in tackling suicidal behaviours.”
As for the community, he urges everyone to stop sharing videos or images of those who have died from suicide as it is disrespectful to the deceased and their loved ones as well as triggering for those who are suffering from suicidal thoughts.
In turn, he suggests keeping in touch with our families and maintaining healthy communication by encouraging each other to seek help or treatment during these difficult times.
There are many outlets available nowadays to ensure that nobody has to go through pain alone.
By banding together and checking up on each other, we can make sure that everyone feels heard and seen.
If you need to reach out, try the resources below: