Abang Johari delivers his opening address. – Photo by Roystein Emmor

KUCHING (Aug 5): A psychiatric nursing home can be established in Sarawak to better help address mental health issues in the state, said Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He said the home will cater for homeless persons with psychiatric illnesses who are stable, independent and employed or those who are stable, independent but unable to hold employment.

“A psychiatric nursing home can be established in Sarawak as a pioneer for the state. This is to create a sense of being in the community and give empowerment, and also autonomy, to a person,” he said when opening the 6th Sarawak Mental Health Conference 2023 at a hotel here today.

Abang Johari also took pride in announcing that Sarawak had established six out of seven sub-specialties in psychiatry — namely, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychogeriatic Psychiatry, Neuropsychiatry, Consultant Liaison Psychiatry, Community Psychiatry and Forensic Psychiatry.

According to him, Addiction Psychiatry will be in the state soon.

The premier said that according to the Department of Statistics Malaysia, Sarawak’s population is ageing drastically and will be an ageing state by 2028.

“The population of senior citizens in Sarawak is increasing at a rate of 0.55 per cent each year since 2020, and constitutes 12.6 per cent of the state’s total population.

“Therefore, there will be issues on mental health which need extra attention and consideration by the state,” he said.

Abang Johari also noted that Sentosa Hospital is the only mental institution in Sarawak gazetted for forensic psychiatry services.

He said cases under the Magistrates Court would be ordered for mental assessment at the hospital.

“The setting of forensic psychiatry infrastructure should be secure, safe and protected. The expansion of services and upgrading of infrastructure needs to be paid urgent attention.

“Psychiatric services cannot stand alone. Most cases are associated with social issues, and they are multi-factorial,” he said.

He added that collaboration with other agencies such as the Ministry of Public Health, Housing and Local Government, and the Ministry of Women, Childhood and Community Wellbeing Development will be vital in writing success stories.

Earlier, Sentosa Hospital director and chairperson for the conference Dr Rosliwati Md Yusoff said the event had gathered speakers who will share their knowledge and experience in their respective sub-specialties.

As of today, she said Sarawak had 34 psychiatrists and six subspecialties.

“Five subspecialties offer their services in Sarawak General Hospital and visiting to Sibu, Miri and Bintulu.

“Forensic psychiatry is based in Sentosa Hospital. We do hope more young psychiatrists would venture into sub-specialties and reside in Sarawak,” she said.

Dr Rosliwati added that Sentosa Hospital caters for psychiatric services namely inpatients, outpatients, rehabilitation, community psychiatry and uniquely for forensic psychiatry.

Also present was Deputy Premier Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian.