PETALING JAYA: Life during the pandemic and the various government responses to limit its spread have brought about feelings of isolation among many and caused millions to suffer from financial stress.
Yesterday, Criminal Investigations Department director Abdul Jalil Hassan said police had received 468 reports of suicide as of last May, nearly double the rate recorded in 2019 and 2020.
Mental health can be a difficult topic to broach, especially with loved ones. FMT spoke to two experts about what people can do if they display suicidal tendencies or are suspected to have them.
Dr Sarah Zehan, a clinical psychologist with Relate Mental Health Malaysia, advises friends and family members to “try to stay calm” if someone tells them he or she is contemplating suicide.
“It can be overwhelming when someone expresses these thoughts, but remember that although we should definitely take it seriously, having suicidal thoughts may not necessarily mean that a person is in immediate danger.”
She said it was best to approach the situation openly, to be ready to listen, to ask questions and to assure the person that help is available.
Dr Andrew Mohanraj, president of the Malaysian Mental Health Association, said that if one suspects a loved one is dealing with mental health issues, it is important to speak to that person from a place of empathy and without judgment.
“Tell them that lately you have noticed changes in them and that you are concerned about their wellbeing.
“Offer to discuss their problems with them, then try to see if we can work with them to break down their problems and tackle them individually.”
Sarah spoke of suicide prevention as a group effort and said that looking out for close ones and checking up on them could help those in need.
“It takes a lot of courage for someone to seek professional help. Helping here can mean giving encouragement for them to speak to a mental health professional,” she said.
Mohanraj agreed that helping them find the appropriate professional care was necessary in many cases, but he warned against trying to do too much in one’s desire to help.
“Offer support by listening, but do not attempt to offer solutions or interventions that may be counterproductive in the long run. Suicidal behaviour is very complex and multi-faceted. It has to be tackled delicately as suicidal thoughts and intentions can reoccur.”
However, he said if there was a clear and singular external cause of somebody’s depression, one course of action would be to help the person manage that specific issue.
“Even if we cannot directly help such a person, it might help to analyse the problem together and assist the person in coming up with a solution in seeking appropriate help, for example approaching the bank to restructure an outstanding loan,” he said.
Those struggling with emotional problems can seek help from trained volunteers at Befrienders. All conversations are confidential. Befrienders Kuala Lumpur can be reached at 03-76272929 any time of the day. Contact details of other Befriender centres can be found here.