Unicef today voiced concern over reports of suicides among young people in Malaysia as measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 continue across the country.
In a statement, Unicef’s representative to Malaysia Rashed Mustafa Sarwar cited police figures showing that 872 young people had committed suicide from January 2019 to May 2021, with children aged 15 to 18 comprising 51% of the 1,708 suicide cases recorded during that time.
“The Covid-19 pandemic and mitigation efforts such as the lockdown have had negative effects on the mental health of many including our youth,” he said.
“The prolonged lockdown has deprived young people of the social connections that are so crucial at this time of life.
“Children have been out of school and have missed out on learning and socialisation milestones. Their parents may have lost their jobs adding to their stress. At the extreme, children may be stuck at home with an abuser.”
Adding that mental health concerns had long been neglected, he said immediate intervention was needed to expand mental health services for young people in schools and communities.
The police in a statement today said that 609 suicide cases had been recorded in 2019, 631 in 2020 and 468 from January to May this year – an average of two suicides a day from 2019 to May 2021.
In terms of gender, 281 men and 1,427 women were recorded as having killed themselves from 2019 to May 2021.
“The majority of them – 872 – were aged 15 to 18 while 668 were aged 19 to 40,” the police statement said.
Rashed, who is also Unicef’s special representative to Brunei, said the numbers were a wake-up call to do more for the mental health of children in Malaysia.
“It has always been a matter of life and death; it is time it is treated as such,” he said.