Malaysians should stop stigmatising people with mental health problems and should instead offer a helping hand to those affected, says Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. Pic by STR/MUHAMMAD SULAIMAN

SHAH ALAM: Malaysians should stop stigmatising people with mental health problems and should instead offer a helping hand to those affected, says Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

She said many people live in denial when faced with challenges related to mental health and treat the issue as taboo and its existence as something that should not even be acknowledged.

"Some Muslims even interpret mental illnesses as a weakness of faith, and advise those who are vulnerable to simply pray more, fear Allah SWT or completely forget about their situations.

"Why do we readily sympathise with someone with a broken arm but keep away from someone undergoing depression?

"The sooner we change this perception the better it would be for all of us," she said in her speech when closing a convention entitled 'Breaking Barriers' at KDU University College here today.

Also present was the founder of the International Mercy Mission Movement, Sheikh Dr Tawfique Chowdhury.

Dr Wan Azizah, who is also Women, Family and Community Development Minister, said instead of labelling someone as a mental health patient, it would be better "if we can offer a helping hand or a shoulder to cry on with a positive spirit".

Commenting further, Dr Wan Azizah said there was an undeniable rise in the number of people who fall into depression and have mental health issues given that the World Health Organisation reported that there were more than 800,000 suicide cases reported globally every year.

She said it was also reported that some 40 per cent of Malaysians will suffer from mental health issues in their lifetime and a recent 2017 survey done by the Health Ministry found that 18,336 people were currently suffering from various stages of depression based on health screenings done on 273,203 individuals.

"Of these, 11, 811 people were found to suffer from mild depression, 3,680 from moderate depression and 1,682 from severe depression," she added. — BERNAMA