KUALA LUMPUR: Some 424,000 children in Malaysia are struggling with mental health problems, an indication that mental health issues among the group have become an epidemic, according to the 2019 National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS 2019).
The Malaysian Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Association (MYCAPs) quoted a World Health Organization (WHO) estimate that 20% of children worldwide suffer from mental health issues, many of whose conditions go undetected and untreated.
“According to WHO, 50% of mental health problems begin before the age of 14, and 75% start in their 20s,” said MYCAPs in a statement in conjunction with World Infant, Child, and Adolescent Mental Health Day which falls on April 23 every year.
According to MYCAPs, the prevention of mental health problems should start as early as infancy, with parents playing a vital role in ensuring their children’s mental well-being through the provision of quality and favourable environments.
This includes ensuring they are in a safe, stable and loving environment, the association said.
“Children’s mental health needs include receiving undivided love from parents. Children need to be in a safe, peaceful, and secure environment, and they need to know there is support.
“In addition, the opportunity to play with other children can allow them to build confidence and self-esteem,” MYCAPs said.
Currently, many children are growing up in unsafe home environments with parents who are physically or emotionally absent, it added.
“For children and adolescents, parents need to encourage healthy conversation by listening actively and providing space for them to speak without being critical or judgemental,” it said.
Hence, MYCAPs stated that good mental health drives development, prevention, rehabilitation and resilience to enable children to grow up healthy and achieve their potential and form resilience and a positive personality as they grow into adulthood.