CYBERJAYA: The Health Ministry's dedicated hotline for mental health issues, Heal 15555 has begun operations today.
Caretaker Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said Heal, which stands for Help with Empathy and Love, would be operate from 8am to midnight every day, including public holidays.
He said he hopes that with the introduction of the hotline, those facing mental health issues will come forward to get early assistance to prevent things from deteriorating.
"This hotline is being handled by the ministry's psychology officers, who have been trained to detect the emotional state of the caller based on their intonation, words they use and other indicators.
"These operators are trained to calm the caller down or refer them to other hotlines such as 999 or other mental health hotlines," he said after launching the National Centre of Excellence for Mental Health (NCEMH), here, today.
Khairy said anyone who needs emotional support should call 15555.
"Anyone who is stressed, experiencing prolonged sadness, anxiety, depression, or is having negative thoughts about life can call the hotline," he said.
Earlier in his speech, Khairy said the hotline was an upgrade from the mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) hotline introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"In 2020, 44,061 calls were received under MHPSS. The number of calls received increased by five-times to 212,319 the following year.
"In order to ensure more people have access to such services, the ministry has decided to improve the service."
On NCEMH, which is under the purview of the Public Health Department, Khairy said it would be a one-stop centre for all partner mental health non-governmental organisations to coordinate.
"This centre is more for research, crisis intervention and to allow coordination among all NGOs involved in mental health.
"This also will be the base for training, particularly to train counsellors who will be sent to the ground to the community, and caregivers of mental health patients. We want to make sure that mental health services will not only be provided at hospitals but also enhanced at the community-level," he said.
Meanwhile, he said, the ministry needed more counsellors to provide better mental health service across the country.
"Currently, we have 369 counsellors under the ministry. We need another 400 counsellors to provide better services on the ground.
"We will request to add more personnel from time to time so that this service can be extended nationwide."