Mental illness should be covered by insurance, says deputy minister

Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye (in grey) opens the Confucius Teaching Cultural Exhibition at Sekolah Menengah Poi Lam (SUWA) in Ipoh May 23, 2019. — Bernama pic
Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye (in grey) opens the Confucius Teaching Cultural Exhibition at Sekolah Menengah Poi Lam (SUWA) in Ipoh May 23, 2019. — Bernama pic

IPOH, May 23 — The Health Ministry said it encouraged insurance companies to provide coverage for mental illness, even as almost two out of 10 teenagers reported depression.

Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said mental illness was a major problem in Malaysia.

“With coverage, it will help to increase awareness on mental illness, also to provide those who are stricken with mental illness with some coverage in time of need,” he said, noting that it was not cheap when seeking treatment from psychiatrists.

“Consultation can come to hundreds (of ringgit). Just sitting there and discussing with psychiatrist specialists,” he told reporters today after opening the Confucius Teaching Cultural Exhibition held at Sekolah Menengah Poi Lam (SUWA).

Dr Lee was responding to a statement by Malaysia Psychiatric Association patron Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye calling on the Health Ministry to start the ball rolling for insurance coverage for mental health care and treatment for Malaysians.

Dr Lee said the insurance scheme has been implemented in Singapore.

“There are five categories of mental health covered which are major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, Tourette and obsessive-compulsive disorder,” he said.

Dr Lee, however, noted that insurance was a business proposal that comes under the purview of Bank Negara Malaysia.

“For the Health Ministry, we encourage insurance companies in the country to provide coverage for mental illness,” he said.

On a separate matter, Dr Lee said the ministry is working with the Education Ministry and the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry to counter mental health issues among teenagers in the country.

He said the ministry was worried over the number of adolescents suffering from mental problems.

“According to the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2017, 17.7 percent of females and 18.9 percent of males aged between 13 and 17 reported they are feeling depressed while 42.3 percent females and 37.1 percent males reported feeling anxious,” he said.

Dr Lee said the Health Ministry was working with the Community Mental Health Centre (Mentari) to provide relief for those suffering from mental illness.

The state of mental health among teenagers was thrust into the limelight recently following the alleged suicide of a 16-year old girl in Batu Kawah, Kuching, Sarawak.

The teen allegedly killed herself after posting an Instagram poll the same day.

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