PETALING JAYA: Mental health issues affect everyone, including Khairy Jamaluddin, who took the helm of the Health Ministry at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in August.

Khairy made that revelation during the launch of the Mental Health Strategic Plan (2020-2025), as he urged Malaysians to always check on their loved ones with just a simple question – “How are you doing?”

“The most basic question that we should ask people around us is ‘are you okay?’, ‘how are you doing?’ Not just, on-off the cuff remark, but you want to listen. If you ask me, yes. It’s been more than two months since I’ve been in the Health Ministry, and I would be lying if I said that my mental health is unaffected.

“Work pressure is a part of mental health and you need to know how to handle the stress,” he said during the launch of the Mental Health Strategic Plan on Sunday (Oct 10) that was live-streamed on Facebook.

Khairy also said politicians are not spared from mental health issues despite displaying a confident front most of the time.

“A public official must display a confident image but it’s not as though we are stress-free. I think it is important for all of us to have an avenue to express our emotions. If we cannot control our emotions, we seek emotional help,” said Khairy.

Khairy said different people have different approaches to stress and for him, it’s all about unwinding after putting in a hard days work.

“Every day, we must have time to completely unplug. That is your sacred time with yourself, God and your thoughts, after what you did the entire day,” he added.

Khairy said the main issue about mental health is stigma, where those who sought help are often perceived by society as being crazy.

“We must get rid of this stigma. Mental health issues must be normalised so those in need can seek help, counselling and treatment,” he added.

That is why the government had decided to make relevant amendments in decriminalising suicide, he said.

“To rid the stigma on suicide, we must decriminalise suicide,” he added.

Khairy said the Health Ministry is of the view that physical health is as important as mental health, and he pledged to ensure that no one in society will be left out in seeking help for mental disorders.

“The centrality of both mental and physical health is very important. No one should be left behind. Treatment and support must be accessible to all.”

Describing himself as an advocate for digital tools, Khairy said the government will invest more to improve the features of the MySejahtera app to include mental health screening, as well as accessibility to treatment and counsellors.

“I’m big on digital tools so we will be investing more on the features in MySejahtera to do mental health screening and treatment, he added.

Khairy also said he will be working towards establishing the National Centre of Excellence for Mental Health.

“Not just a research centre, but also a place where we have state-of-the-art equipment and it will be open to those with mental health issues. That is my agenda now,” he added.

Khairy was appointed as Health Minister under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s leadership on Aug 23.

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