KUALA LUMPUR: Lawmakers from both sides of the political divide have been urged not to belittle the role of counselling in society, pointing towards the crucial role MPs play in ending the negative stigma that comes with counselling.
Calling on MPs to be good examples, Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh said awareness on the need for counselling needed to start from Parliament representatives.
“To end the stigma, we need to start with MPs. You are the leaders of your communities. So, when we post on social media, if we get counselling, we need to tell people that we also need counselling.
“We need to tell people that counselling is normal, it is good. Only then will people be persuaded to go for counselling,” she said in reply to a supplementary question by Noraini Ahmad (BN-Parit Sulong).
Noraini had asked how the ministry intended to eliminate the stigma that accompanies counselling.
Yeoh (PH-Segambut) said the issue of counselling would become a problem if its necessity was played down by the likes of lawmakers.
“If I propose to MPs (to go for counselling), but if the MPs laugh and say it is not necessary, it will be difficult to go out and tell the people to end the stigma.
“In school, we were always told that if we are not disciplined, we will be sent for counselling. Hence the perception of society and students. They view it as negative, when it is not.
“MPs must be good examples. Our stress level is high. We need to deal with protests by different people, so we need counselling. Awareness must begin from representatives in the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara,” she said.
To the initial question by Muslimin Yahya (PH-Sungai Besar), Yeoh said the government was targeting 11,000 professional counsellors by 2020 to face increasingly complex social problems.
The number, she said, would help to reduce the ratio to one counsellor for 2,945 residents, compared with one counsellor to every 4,030 residents now.
Yeoh said as of Aug 31, there were 8,039 registered counsellors with the Counsellors Board.
According to Yeoh, the Welfare Department’s psychology and counselling division has 192 counsellors, while the counselling unit of the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN) has 18 people, while the guidance and counselling division of the women development department has two.
Of the 8,039 registered counsellors, 1,459 are in the civil service, 3,221 in the teaching field, 697 in the higher education sector, 238 with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and 2,424 are with the private sector and private practitioners.
Yeoh also gave a racial breakdown of the number of registered counsellors in the country, the highest being Malays (6,081), followed by Chinese (1,077), Indians (377), Sabah Bumiputeras (246), Sarawak Bumiputeras (130) and others (128).
In terms of gender, Yeoh said female counsellors were double that of their male counterparts, at 5,541 women compared with 2,498 men.