On World Mental Health Day, Khairy moots national excellence centre for more accessible healthcare

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Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin speaks at a press conference at the ministry in Putrajaya, September 9, 2021. — Bernama pic
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin speaks at a press conference at the ministry in Putrajaya, September 9, 2021. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 10 — Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has vowed to open the National Mental Health Excellence Centre as part of his agenda to increase access to mental healthcare for Malaysians, in a bid to direct the spotlight on the issue.

Speaking at the launch of the Mental Health National Strategic Plan (2020-2025) and the Let’s Talk media campaign in line with the World Mental Health Day, Khairy said that more efforts are needed to improve accessibility to mental health care services, and the centre would be a pinnacle for Malaysia’s mental healthcare system.

He said that while Malaysia has good plans and policies on mental health issues, it often hits a gridlock when it comes to execution. He also commended the recent decision by the government to decriminalise suicide, labelled the law that penalises the act archaic.

“So, I want to mention it clearly, that for the Ministry of Health (MOH), apart from physical health, we have to place mental health in a very important spot.

“The centrality of both mental and physical health is very, very important. No one should be left behind,” he said.

He added that the government is keen on investing more into the mental healthcare system, including in the MySejahtera smart application, to do mental health screening, receive aid and treatments.

“We will invest more in MySejahtera, and this is a big announcement. I want to bring back to life the plan; this I have not referred to the higher management [of MOH] as yet. The National Mental Healthcare Excellence Centre,” he said.

He said that the efforts to decriminalise suicide as announced by the government recently, is a first step to address the stigma associated with the act.

On October 7, Deputy Health Minister II Datuk Aaron Ago Dagang told the Dewan Rakyat that the move to decriminalise suicide has been set in motion with Cabinet to finetune amendments to the Penal Code on the matter.

Currently, anyone who attempts suicide and survives faces criminal prosecution, where those convicted can be punished with a jail term of up to one year or fined, or both.

Khairy, as well as Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, are among the advocates to decriminalise suicide.

Both expressed their views recently during the World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10.

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