School pilot project to detect stress and depression among studentsPUTRAJAYA: A rising number of youths suffering from mental health issues has prompted the Government to launch a pilot project in four secondary schools to identify and address the situation.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the Health and Education ministries would jointly launch the project in the schools, which had been randomly selected.
The move was among efforts to identify those facing problems like stress and depression, and to help the students before the problems worsened and led to dire consequences, he said, adding that the increasing number of youths suffering from mental health issues was one reason such a programme was introduced at schools.
“According to my ministry’s National Health Mobility Survey, the number of people seeking medical attention for mental health problems was 10.6% in 1996 but this rose to 11.2%, with 6.4% having considered suicide, in 2006.
“We feel it is alarming that a high number of those seeking treatment in 2006 were those aged between 16 and 19, and those aged between 70 and 74 years,” Liow told a press conference after attending the Mental Health Advisory Council meeting here yesterday.
The pilot project, which will begin immediately, will be conducted at SM Sains in Teluk Intan, Perak; SMK Ahmad Badawi in Kepala Batas, Penang; SMK Simpang Bekok in Malacca; and SMK St Michael in Penampang, Sabah.
Under the project, students will be asked to take a mental health evaluation test to determine if they are facing any mental health issues and the level of the problem they are facing.
Liow said there were various reasons why those aged between 16 and 19 were more vulnerable to mental illness.
They included family problems and the inability to cope with the different kinds of pressure.
He said medication would also be given if experts who examined the students felt they needed it.
“We will take good care of them,” he said.
Mental Health Advisory Council member Dr Omar Mihat said the project would involve selected teachers being trained to translate the results of the tests and determine if students were suffering from problems and advise them on what they could do on their own to reduce stress or depression.
“The project will be over six months to gauge its effectiveness. We expect to introduce it in schools nationwide by the end of the year once we have ironed out any teething problems,” he said.
National Union of Teaching Profession (NUTP) secretary-general Lok Yim Pheng said such a mental health programme in schools needed careful implementation.
“Mental health is still a very sensitive issue in our society. Before the programme is carried out, it is very important that parents are aware of its objective and the mental health evaluation test that their children have to take,” she said when contacted yesterday.
National Parent-Teacher Association Collaborative Council president Assoc Prof Datuk Dr Mohamad Ali Hasan said the programme should aim at identifying the causes of and ways to help students overcome mental health problems.
“This programme should involve both students and their parents.
“It is important to determine students’ backgrounds to better understand the factors that make them suffer from mental problems,” he added.