Statement on deaths by suicide among children
By Dr Rashed Mustafa Sarwar, UNICEF Representative to Malaysia and Special Representative to Brunei Darussalam
My heart is broken by the news about the 872 young people in Malaysia who took their lives from January 2019 up to May 2021 as reported by the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM). Children between 15 -18 years old made up 51 per cent of the total 1,708 suicide cases recorded in that time period.
The COVID-19 pandemic and mitigation efforts such as the lockdown have had negative effects on the mental health of many including our youth. Suicide cases almost doubled on average across all age groups in the 5 months in 2021 (94 cases a month) compared to 2019 (51 cases a month).
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 socialization milestones. Their parents may have lost their jobs adding to their stress. At the extreme, children may be stuck at home with an abuser.
Mental health concerns have long been a neglected part of well-being. This is a wake-up call to do more for the mental health of all children in Malaysia and give it the investment it deserves. It has always been a matter of life and death; it is time it is treated as such.
Immediate investment is needed to expand mental health services including systematic and upgraded psychological screening and profession support for young people in schools and communities. Additionally, there is an opportunity to build on parenting programmes to ensure that children from vulnerable families get the support and protection they need at home. It is only through a holistic, multi-pronged approach can we give children the support they need.
Meanwhile, there are free helplines that children and young people can call to seek help and receive emotional support.
Talian Kasih – 15999 (24/7)
Talian BuddyBear - 1800-18-2327(BEAR) (daily 12pm-12am)
Befrienders - 03 7627 2929 (24/7)
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.