10th April, 2012
KOTA KINABALU: A member of the newly-formed Mental Health Promotion Advisory Council yesterday urged the society to change their mindset on the issue of mental illness.
Its member Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said changing the mindset would mean de-stigmatising mental illness.
“Stigma is very much an issue in mental health problems. The process of de-stigmatising mental illness involves the individual, family, public and among healthcare professionals.
“Creating greater awareness about mental health, empowering the mentally sick and their family members to stand up against stigma and discrimination through education and engaging the public to understand and be involved in mental health issues are some strategies we can undertake to destigmatise mental health,” he said in a statement yesterday.
According to him, healthcare professionals and concerned members of society could help destigmatise mental illness through ways like showing good example by treating patients with mental illness with respect and dignity and help to promote this positive attitude among staff in the hospital; learning more about mental health and mental illness, and sharing their knowledge with family members, relatives and friends and collaborating actively with local government and non government organizations (NGOs) to educate the public on mental health issues, and correct distorted messages on people with mental illness.
Lee, a social activist, also said the society must support NGOs that promote mental health, and advocate for people with mental illness and their families by joining them and participating in their activities.
“Empowering people with mental illness and their family members to stand up against stigma and discrimination through proper counseling, and family education is also important,” he said.
No country or person is immune to mental disorders and their impact in psychological, social and economic terms is high, he pointed out.
“Mental Health should no longer be ignored in our community. On the contrary it should be given adequate attention in relation to other health problems.
“Mental health issues at workplace should be given due attention as the productivity of the staff of any organisation depends on their mental health,” he added.
He said the society need to do more to promote mental health in the country as mental health promotion improves the quality of life.
“Mental health promotion activities are interventions designed to enable people to improve and to maintain optimal mental health, well-being and social functioning.
“It focuses on improving the social, physical and economic environments which determine the mental health and coping capacity of individuals and the community.
“The promotion of mental health encompasses the government, the employers, the community and the family units. More can be done for the mentally ill in the country not only in terms of treatment, counseling and care but also support for their next-of-kin and other benefits,” he said.
In this connection, Lee called for a string of measures to be introduced including insurance coverage for the mentally ill which is now denied to them; income tax relief for parents or relatives who have to take care of the mentally ill; remove all forms of discrimination against persons who have recovered from mental illness so that they can be successfully reintegrated into society.
“The decision by the Ministry of Health to set up the Mental Health Promotion Advisory Council is most timely and appropriate in the wake of the growing problem of mental health issues in the country,” he said.
Consisting of representatives from both government and non-government organizations as well as practicing psychiatrists and other mental health professionals who are knowledgeable in the field, the Council aims among other things to advise the Minister on matters concerning the development of programmes and activities related to mental health promotion.
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