Family and friends got me through bouts of depression, says Syed Saddiq

(from left) Malaysian Psychiatrist Association president Dr Hazli Zakaria, Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, forum moderator Arinah Najwa and the health ministry’s mental health section head, Dr Nurashikin Ibrahim.

GOMBAK: Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman today admitted that he had suffered bouts of depression.

But he said he had the support of family and friends to get through such low points in his life.

“I was privileged to have a good support system.

“I believe that is the most important. You and I could be the support to our friends whom we know are going through similar situations,” he told reporters after a forum on mental health at the International Islamic University of Malaysia today.

He said family and friends of those with mental distress should lead the way in open discussions on mental health.

Mental health issues are still considered as taboo in society, he added.

“We as friends or family have to start the talking. That’s why I am suggesting that we leverage on the ‘let’s talk’ campaign started by the health ministry.”

Mental health and the increasing number of suicides among youths has been pushed to the forefront following the suicide by a 16-year-old girl in Sarawak on May 13.

She had conducted a poll on Instagram on whether she should choose “life or death” before falling to her death from the third floor of a building in Padawan.

Syed Saddiq said there was no point in taking drastic measures such as banning social media polls following this suicide.

“What we need is early intervention before a problem actually occurs.”

He said this was in line with the national discourse he had mooted earlier, where all ministries were urged to participate in discussions on how to address mental health issues.

Malaysian Psychiatrist Association president Dr Hazli Zakaria admitted that there is a need to improve mental health detection awareness.

“For example, in this Sarawak case, the teenager had followers on social media.

“This means that she had friends who followed her. But these friends were not able to detect the changes she was undergoing.”

He said these followers didn’t realise she needed urgent help. If the mental health awareness among them can be improved, they can do something about those silently screaming for help, he added.