The steady deterioration of mental health has been attributed to the rise of Covid-19 cases in Malaysia of late, and it’s looking more and more likely that there will be adverse mental health consequences due to this spike for the foreseeable future.
In this case, the demand for mental health services in the country is likely to soar during and after the pandemic.
That being said, it certainly came as a shock that the recently announced Budget 2021 saw a significant reduction in monetary allocation in the psychiatry and mental health services/programmes in the Health Ministry.
Budget 2021 is Terrible For Our Mental Health
In particular, the allocated budget for mental health services and infrastructure will be RM26 million in 2021 — a whopping 61% reduction from the RM69 million budget for 2020.
This is the lowest amount allocated towards mental health services thus far and it is also the steepest budget cut this area of healthcare has experienced over the last decade. And with the country currently experiencing a massive new surge in Covid-19 infections as well as a silent mental health crisis, the reduction in budget is certainly very alarming.
Think of it this way. A significant reduction in funding for public mental health services would definitely impact accessibility to diagnose, treat, and support a variety of mental health issues. Limited access would also result in spiralling mental health conditions in a patient, which could lead to harmful behaviours such as suicide, self-harm, self-medicating, and substance or alcohol abuse.
Furthermore, it’s also unclear how much of the budget would be allocated (if at all) to mental health prevention activities, which are becoming more vital than ever before during the pandemic.
And with the rising demand for mental health services, professionals may now face an uphill challenge in maintaining access and quality of care — while at the same time experiencing greater burnout, stress, and mental strain.
In this day and age, mental health services, prevention, and support are more essential than ever before. In this case, the government should reconsider and increase the budget across all facets of the public health sector in 2021, including mental health.
Failure to do so may result in devastating consequences for Malaysians suffering from ongoing and new mental health issues due to the pandemic.