It’s a tough time for everyone, and a little emotional support goes a long way.
Volunteer relief organisation, Mercy Malaysia, has set up a free mental health hotline to provide emotional support for those coping with the RMO period.
The hotline was set up by the Health Ministry’s Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre (CPRC) and is led by Mercy Malaysia exco member and head of the mental health and psychosocial support team, Dr Hariyati Shahrima Abdul Majid along with Health Ministry mental health unit (Disease Control Division) public health specialist Dr Nurashikin Ibrahim.
It aims at giving the public access to qualified mental health first aiders who can offer practical support for those dealing with anxieties, following the government’s RMO that was extended till 14 April.
In an interview with the Malay Mail, Mercy Malaysia programme development and operation general manager Said Alhudzari Ibrahim said that the hotline will help address the growing uncertainties and misinformation concerning the COVID-19 pandemic that may have triggered some to experience anxiety and panic on top of having to restrict their movements.
“We decided to establish the Psychological First Aid Hotline to provide a safe and confidential platform for people affected by the pandemic to share their anxiety and problems with professionals who are trained to manage mental health issues,” he said.
Said explained that the hotline provides non-clinical services and was set up to support the ministry in dealing with mental health issues among the public that may arise since most of the ministry’s counsellors have been assigned to hospitals to support the frontline medical staff.
“Psychological first aid is the first line of services we try to provide for people with anxiety or requiring some basic emotional support. However, specialised cases that may require further attention will be provided with referral options,” he added.
The hotline will be staffed by 19 psychosocial volunteers from Mercy Malaysia and 10 counsellors from the Health Ministry, who will all be on standby on a rotational basis.
“When someone calls the hotline, the call will be transferred to our pool of psychosocial volunteers, and whoever is available will take the call to provide the necessary support.”
All the assigned volunteers manning the hotline are also qualified psychosocial practitioners with many years of experience under their belts.
“Many of them have been part of disaster relief operations in other countries such as the Philippines and Bangladesh, while others were involved in the MH370 incident, providing psychosocial support to Malaysia Airlines.”
Besides the hotline, Mercy Malaysia will also be conducting daily Facebook live videos to highlight various topics of mental health during the RMO.
According to Said, people are still very much stigmatised for seeking mental health support. In an emergency situation such as the one we are facing, mental health support is important for the public who may need it after they have taken all the measures to reduce their risk.
As of Friday (27 March), the hotline has received over 50 calls daily and is expecting the numbers to increase as more people will come to know about the service.
The support line operates from 9 am until 5 pm daily at 03-2935 9935.
By: Siti Farhana Sheikh Yahya