The 9th Perak Mental Health Convention with the Theme: ‘100 Years of Psychiatry, Where do we go from here’, was opened by Dato’ Dr Hjh Nordiyanah binti Hj Hassan, State Health Director at Impiana Hotel. She said that patients with a mental illness suffer from stigma and discrimination. Many people who have mental health conditions consider their signs and symptoms a normal part of life or avoid treatment out of shame or fear. A nationwide survey on mental health in Malaysia in 2006 (NHMSIII) among people 18 years and above revealed that 11.2% of the adult population suffers from mental disorders. She said that people tend to visit bomohs rather than doctors. She added that it was a coincidence that the convention fell on World Mental Health Day which was on October 10.
Dato’ Dr Suarn Singh, Consultant Psychiatrist, Hospital Bahagia Ulu Kinta, who gave the keynote address, traced the history of mental health-care from pre-1900 to the present time. The Bahagia Hospital in Tanjung Rambutan was built in 1911 and one of the buildings is still in use. The focus now is more on outpatient treatment rather than inpatient treatment and there are 49 facilities nationwide for inpatient treatment. Self-help and family support groups are being trained. There are mental health promotions and healthy lifestyle campaigns. Books have been written on mental health-care for children, adults, senior citizens and retirees.
Symposiums were held on various topics including ‘Happy Family’, moving away from mental institutions to community mental health centres, advocacy for the mentally ill and other more technical subjects.
“This is an amazing walk not the amazing race”, said Pak Peter, the Marshal for the day; and what was amazing about it was that 100 people, from all walks of life and different social concerns, walked approximately 6½ km for mental health awareness. In conjunction with Mental Health Day on October 10, KAMI (Kinta Action on Mental Health Issues Society Perak) and Nomad Adventure organised this awareness walk. The Walk from Gopeng through Kg Jahang and Kg Chulek and ending at Nomad Adventure, was also an eco awareness experience. Participants were encouraged to “interact, respond and make a difference”. Simultaneous walks were also organised in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Johor. Among the walkers were visitors from Singapore, Austria and Holland. Participation was limited to reduce the impact on the environment.
…and off we go!
The Walk was led by KAMI vice-chairman, Mr Lau Yew Kee and representatives from different groups. There could not have been a better day for the Walk. The morning was slightly overcast with an occasional cool breeze under the canopy of trees, the tarred road meandered through oil palm estates and kampongs, made it a very pleasant walk indeed. Chan Yuen-li, director of Nomad, did warm-up laughter exercises with the group before the start; drumming and lunch were also included in the programme, all of which were thoroughly enjoyed. Director of KAMI, Ong Su-ming acknowledged and thanked sponsors, donors, NGOs and all the participants.
The objectives of the Walk was not only to create better public awareness on mental health but also to “de-stigmatise mental illness and to advocate for the rights, well-being and public support for the mentally ill”. This is all the more pertinent when “WHO (World Health Organisation) predicts that within 20 years more people will be affected by depression than any other health problem”.
If this Walk gave us a better understanding of mental health and illness, and nature awareness, than it would have achieved its purpose.
KAMI is an affiliate member of MINDA (Movement to Incorporate the New Developments & Actions for the mentally ill) Malaysia. KAMI Community Wellness Centre is at: 4 & 4A Lebuh Perajurit 3/2, Ipoh. Contact: Su – 016-5468003.