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More needs to be done on mental health disorder risk for children, teens, says Zaliha

The health minister says the issue is not getting the attention it deserves.

2 minute read
Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa (centre) speaks to reporters in Johor Bahru, Feb 19. Photo: Bernama
Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa (centre) speaks to reporters in Johor Bahru, Feb 19. Photo: Bernama

While children and adolescents have been identified as groups at risk of developing mental health disorders, the issue is not getting the attention it deserves, says Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa.

She said the transition from childhood to adulthood was the most critical phase in the process of physical change, cognitive maturity and emotional management, where children would have the tendency to feel confused and left out if they failed to adapt to social environments.

"Based on clinical observations, most teenage patients who come to clinics have started to harm themselves to release the emotional stress they are experiencing.

"This causes them to feel ashamed, an inconvenience (to others) and incompetent. They are stuck in their problems and do not have enough knowledge to solve them," she said during the opening ceremony of the child and adolescent psychiatric ward at Permai Hospital in Johor Bahru yesterday.

She said the perception that mental health issues could only happen to adults also caused an overlook of issues involving children's mental health.
"Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that 10 to 20% of children and teens around the world experienced mental health disorders while 50% of serious mental health problems are established by age 14," said Zaliha.

She said that based on research, trauma can affect a person’s genes and be passed on to subsequent generations.

"Therefore, I appeal to everyone, especially parents, to be more sensitive to the factors that can traumatise children.

"All quarters should help provide a harmonious and healthy environment for the emotional growth of children and teens, such as by increasing parenting knowledge," she added.

She also urged healthcare personnel to equip themselves with knowledge of psychological first aid to help children and adolescents in the event of a tragedy in the country.