PETALING JAYA: Between March and May last year, the helpline of the Befrienders KL received 6,858 calls from people who were distressed and needed emotional support. For the same period this year, the number of calls has shot up to 10,412 – a more than 50% increase.
More and more people are getting to be at the end of their tether and at a loss over what to do with their lives. And more callers are talking about job losses, financial stress and even taking their own lives.
Ardy Ayadali, who is the publicity director at Befrienders KL that operates a 24-hour helpline for people with emotional problems and have suicidal thoughts, told FMT more people are complaining about jobs and financial difficulties, especially during this lockdown.
“The main reasons why people call us still remain the same. The majority of complaints are firstly, mental health, second is relationships and third is family. But we notice an increase in financial and job-related complaints.
“I think the pandemic plays a huge role because that created this chain reaction where many have lost their income and cannot pay their bills. They are unable to cope with the stress.”
Meanwhile, he said those reporting suicidal tendencies are also up by 10 percentage points as at May.
“On average, around one out of three callers will indicate suicidal tendencies, at around 30%. This year, we notice that the number is close to around 40%.”
Suicidal tendencies are indicated when callers express an intention of ending their lives during the tele-counselling session. Ardy said their volunteers will then assess the severity, or their suicide risk by asking follow-up questions. They are, however, not trained to give professional advice.
He said this was a huge concern because the real statistics of people being suicidal may be even higher.
Recently, there have been many such cases reported in the media. Most recently, a man suffering from depression after his business shut down reportedly fell to his death from his apartment at Jalan Bagan Ajam in Butterworth on Wednesday.
Ardy added that despite good government intervention previously, mental health issues in the country are currently on the back-burner as the government’s main priority seems to be battling a worsening Covid-19 situation.
“This is dangerous, because mental health issues must be tackled early on,” he said.
He anticipates that there may be more people who will be seeking help for even more severe symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress sometime next year.
“By the time we pay attention, it might be too late. Even now, there are not enough psychiatrists and psychologists. Next year, there might be an influx of people needing medical help for mental health issues, but there may not be enough accessible mental health professionals to help them.”
A number of MPs have voiced their concern about the alarming increase in suicide cases recently, including Jelebu MP Jalaluddin Alias, Bagan MP Lim Guan Eng and Pekan MP Najib Razak.