Suicidal thoughts among M'sian students surge by 13.1 per cent

05 Jul 2023 10:46am
Photo for illustrative purposes only - Photo by 123rf
Photo for illustrative purposes only - Photo by 123rf

CYBERJAYA - The National Center of Excellence for Mental Health (NCEMH) has revealed concerning statistics indicating a 13.1 per cent increase in the number of students experiencing suicidal thoughts in 2022.

The figures, which involve over 4,300 individuals, are significantly higher compared to a 10 per cent increase over the last five years.

National Center of Excellence for Mental Health (NCEMH) head Dr Nurashikin Ibrahim said the Adolescent Health Survey (AHS) by the Public Health Institute of the Health Ministry on 33,523 students aged 13 to 17 last year revealed an increase in the percentage of those with suicidal behavior.

Based on AHS findings, 10 per cent of them plan to commit suicide in 2022, compared to 7.3 per cent (2017) and 6.4 per cent (2012).

He said the percentage of suicide attempts by that group continues to show an upward trend with 9.5 per cent attempting suicide last year compared to 6.9 percent in 2017.

The problem of depression among these groups also increased from 17.7 per cent in 2012 to 18.3 per cent (2017) and 26.9 per cent (2022).

"The percentage of feeling lonely among teenagers almost doubled to 16.2 per cent compared to 9.3 per cent in 2017," she told Sinar.

A total of 239 secondary schools were randomly selected to participate in the research.

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Dr Nurashikin said the study indicates to all parties that serious attention needs to be given to the mental health issue among school students.

She added that mental illness is now Malaysia's second major health problem after heart disease.

"During the Covid-19 pandemic, this problem is so prominent when many cannot adapt to the current changes, which ultimately affect their mental health," she said.

Dr Nurashikin said among the initial symptoms are depression, anxiety, prolonged sadness, and loss of interest in daily activities.

"Basically, the symptoms of mental health problems in teenagers are the same as adults," he said.

Dr Nurashikin said the cause of the problem is closely related to psychosocial, socioeconomic, cultural and environmental factors, poverty as well as parents' high expectations for academic achievement.

"Parents should be aware of their children's changes to avoid a worse situation," she said.

She said parents or guardians should take their children to mental health services if there are such symptoms.

"Take your child to get further evaluation and mental health services at the nearest health facility because, without appropriate treatment, teenagers tend towards risky behavior such as substance abuse (prohibited substances), alcohol and smoking," she said.

According to her, a total of 200 counselors are stationed at health clinics across the country and mental health screening can be done through the MySejahtera application.

She added that mental health services are also provided in 60 hospitals, 1,161 health clinics and 34 Mentari Community Mental Health Centers throughout the country.

In a related matter, Dr Nurashikin Ibrahim, who is also a Public Health Specialist, said that the increase in the percentage of feeling lonely among teenagers, which is one of the symptoms of mental illness, is not because the group has no peers but may be due to lack of communication with their parents.

"When they feel lonely, they choose gadgets, when we use gadgets too much, we will communicate less physically," she said.

She stressed that depression, at various ages, needs to be diagnosed before further treatment is given.

"You cannot say you have depression or anxiety until a qualified medical officer confirms it," said Dr Nurashikin.

Therefore, she added, NCEMH acts as a national coordination leader in prevention and advocacy, crisis intervention, human capital development and the sharing of expertise resources comprehensively covering public, private and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Among them is increasing engagement with agencies, including the Malaysian Education Ministry, to help manage mental health among the students involved.

"Among the programmes carried out are Minda Sihat Sekolah, Ekspresi Remaja Estari, as well as the Healthy Student Program at the university level.

We also have a Youth Friendly Clinic service at the government health clinic," she said.

According to her, NCEMH also collaborates with 52 directly involved NGOs by allocating funds.

"We also train community leaders to improve their skills and knowledge on mental health, thus encouraging the community to seek help," said Dr Nurashikin.

For further help, the public can call the Health Ministry Mental Health Crisis Helpline, HEAL Line 15555, for emotional support services and early psychological help from 8am to 12 midnight. Also, visit and