The Government should intensify its efforts with the help of voluntary and non governmental organisations to disseminate more information and awareness on the importance of good mental health for the public.
It has been reported that there has been a 57% increase in distress calls from women received by the Women and Family Development Ministry’s Talian Kasih hotline since the movement control order (MCO) was imposed on March 18.
While the ministry concerned looks into ways to handle these SOS calls, it is also imperative that the government, the National Security Council and the relevant Ministries also look into issues related to the mental health of students.
It has been estimated that nearly 100,000 students have been confined to their campuses and dormitories for the past several weeks. And this prolonged confinement will increase the stress levels among students who already have had to cope with the stress of academic life.
The government and relevant NGOs should disseminate information, through the mass media and other avenues, about maintaining good mental health at home especially during stress-related times.
It is doubly important that this kind of information be rolled out in a timely fashion, particularly if the MCO and enhanced MCO are extended.
The students must be provided with emotional support and stress relief, and student counselling is needed during periods of movement restriction.
I have received phone calls from students who have spent more than four weeks confined to their campuses and dormitories seeking help to allow them to return to their homes to see their parents and loved ones and to celebrate the Hari Raya festive occasion.
It is therefore welcome news that the government is considering ways to allow students stranded in campuses to return to their homes. It is now working out the standard operation procedures (SOP) to be followed in ensuring an orderly return to their homes in the kampungs and other rural and urban areas.
Higher Education Minister Datuk Noraini Ahmad has played a very significant role and has worked behind the scenes to find a solution to the students’ appeals.
Besides the SOP, it is also proposed that some other measures be put in place to enable a safe and orderly return of the students.
Attention must be paid to the modes of transport being made available, their staggered movement timetable, and pre-departure arrangements, among which are that they must fulfil all health requirements like wearing masks, social distancing, and health screening.
No detail must be left out, including ensuring that the students be supplied with pre-cooked food prior to beginning their journey back home. This is to ensure that they do not stop at rest and recreation (R&R) stops where they face the risk of infection.
I call on all students to be patient and wait for the SOP to be drawn up by the National Security Council, the Health and Higher Education Ministries.
Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye
Malaysian Psychiatric Association