Dr Rosliwati (second left) presents a memento to Abang Johari. Dr Sim is seen at second right. — Photo by Roystein Emmor

KUCHING (Aug 5): One in eight adolescents in Malaysia has had suicidal thoughts, while one in 10 have attempted suicide, said Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He quoted the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2022: Adolescent Health Survey as saying that one in four adolescents felt depressed.

“A decade trend (from 2012-2022) showed an increasing trend in suicidal thoughts and attempted suicide. These figures are quite worrying and need urgent attention from all agencies,” he said when opening the 6th Sarawak Mental Health Conference 2023 at a hotel here today.

Abang Johari said the survey also pointed out that seven per cent of adolescents in the country are current drinkers (those who have had at least a drink of alcohol in the past 30 days).

He said 55 per cent of these current drinkers obtained drinks from family, followed by 19 per cent from stores and 13 per cent from friends.

“Seventy-three per cent of them have parents who drink and 86 per cent of them have peers who drink. The usage of substances and alcohol ultimately can lead to mental health problems and illnesses,” he added.

Abang Johari said priority should be given to this generation, as they are the country’s future.

“Their mental health well-being is extremely crucial — the NHMS 2019 reported that 424,000 children in Malaysia had mental health problems.

“Children from the rural areas, girls, those aged from 10 to 15 years old and from the B40 household income reportedly have more problems. Factors contributing to this are problems in peers, conduct, emotional and hyperactivity,” he said.

Abang Johari added that the NHMS 2019 also reported that 300,000 adults in the country have used drugs at least once in their lifetime, and 100,000 adults currently use drugs.

He said that drug usage was among the highest among rural dwellers, those from the low-income group and men.

He said that the NHMS 2019 also highlighted that Putrajaya recorded the highest number of depressed adults at 5.4 per cent, followed by Negeri Sembilan and Perlis at 5 per cent and 4.3 per cent respectively.

“By sociodemographic groups, males are at 2 per cent and females (2.6 per cent); rural (3.6 per cent); urban (1.9 per cent); while by household income, the B40 (2.7 per cent), M40 (1.7 per cent) and T20 (0.5 per cent).”

Meanwhile, Abang Johari noted that 150 participants from Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo are attending the three-day conference themed ‘Diversifying Mental Health Specialties in Borneo’.

“It is important that all parties come together as one to create more awareness on mental health issues,” he said.

Among those present were Deputy Premier Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian and Sentosa Hospital director Dr Rosliwati Md Yusoff, who is also chairperson of the conference.