A recent survey by the Institute for Health Behavioural Research and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) found that more than 12.3% of teenagers and children aged between 10 and 17 living in People’s Housing Projects (PPR) or low-cost housing in the Klang Valley have mental health problems and are at risk of suicide.
The study was conducted on 1,578 children and teenagers in 37 PPRs.
It concentrated on the elements that affected a child’s or adolescent’s psychological health, their coping mechanisms in particular circumstances, and their actions when seeking assistance for such issues.
According to Deputy Health Minister Lukanisman Awang Sauni, the majority of the group’s minors experienced mental health problems as a result of their living conditions and the economic hardships brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We are also looking into factors such as the very limited space available in PPR (units), which is compounded further when a large family occupies a unit too small to accommodate them.”
“This will cause a teenager to leave the house to relieve their stress and consume prohibited substances.”
“The population density at a PPR, which is around 4,000 to 5,000 people, puts too much pressure on them either due to the lifestyle of the neighbourhood or the lack of love and affection they get from their families. This will lead to them seeking affection from outside,” Lukanisman said after launching the ‘Together with the Community Programme: Mental Health Awareness Among PPR Residents’ at the Pinggiran Bukit Jalil PPR on Saturday.
To put things into perspective, a PPR unit usually has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, and a kitchen with square footage of not less than 700 sq ft.
He went on to say that according to police statistics, there was a slight decrease in cases of mental health problems leading to suicide in the community last year, with 981 cases recorded compared to 1,142 in 2021.
In its effort to ensure mental well-being in the community, Lukanis said the ministry has implemented various initiatives including setting up a Psychosocial Support Helpline during the pandemic.
“Online analysis showed that out of the 308,445 calls received between Mar. 25 to Dec. 31 last year, 228,480 (72.2%) were from people who needed emotional support and counseling due to chronic stress, depression and anxiety during the pandemic.
“We are seeking help from the Communications and Digital Ministry to make calls to the hotline free of charge. By doing that, callers need not worry about having enough credit when calling in for help.”
You can read more about the study here.
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