PETALING JAYA, Sept 26 — The recent increase in suicides may actually point to an improved awareness, Befrienders Malaysia president Ganga Dara said.
“Previously, suicides were often reported as accidental deaths but the awareness for the need to intervene is increasing,” he said.
Another reason could be the trigger effect when the media report on suicides and how people would relate to the victims, he said.
Ganga said when young people discussed suicide on a popular online forum, others would be sympathetic but some made light of the situation.
“This apparent insensitivity could be a way to get over their discomfort of the topic.”
Ganga said it would be better for them to ask suicidal people to talk to them confidentially or to refer them to Befrienders, which is a confidential and non-judgmental organisation.
He said they were also working closely with the Health Ministry and had helped formalise the National Strategic Suicide Prevention Plan.
Among the key points of the eight-point plan adopted by the ministry last year was the need to raise awareness, especially in identifying and reaching out to high-risk groups as well as networking with various organisations and the media.
Over the past year, those in distress have contacted the eight Befrienders centres nationwide 39,000 times via phone calls, face-to-face meetings and email.
Ganga said Facebook users were also alerting the organisation to those who had expressed suicidal intentions.
Crime Prevention Foundation chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said the government should look into providing community health centres for the public to seek early help.
He said that although some major hospitals had psychiatric departments, people were afraid of being stigmatised and ostracised if they went there for treatment.
“But this is an advanced stage. Community Health Centres would be for people who are stressed.
“They can drop by and get advice or counselling from a clinical psychologist,” said Lee, noting that private psychiatric help was expensive.
“The government must provide this because as the country is becoming more industrialised, people must compete more but their mental health development cannot cope.
“All these cases are a reflection of the poor state of mental health among people, whether local or foreign.”
However, Lee said there was a shortage of clinical psychologists and psychiatrists in Malaysia which also needed to be addressed.