Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Tawau tops Sabah dengue list

Thursday, December 5th, 2019

Navindran (left) during a ceremony.

TAWAU: Dengue cases in the district are alarming with some 732 cases reported this year alone, making Tawau as the worst of dengue district in the State last year.

Tawau Health Officer, Dr G Navindran said poor waste management and dumping everywhere has contributed to the increase in dengue cases, including in local and foreign housing areas.

He said it was difficult to define an area as a hot zone as there were many hotspots in the district and the incidents were not static in one area due to human movement and irregular waste disposal.

However, he said housing area or villages recorded the highest number of dengue cases.

“Among the areas are Taman Semarak, Taman Ria, Taman Wawasan, Batu 2 until Batu 4.

“We should not blame the foreigners because from our inspection is not only their areas that have a lots of garbage but also in the local settlements, whether it is new or not.

“Therefore, we hope that the public will cooperate with the Health Department and MPT to clean up their areas so that dengue cases can be reduced and our environment is clean and safe,” he told media after officiating the Kick Dengue programme held at Community Hall here, Wednesday.

It was organised by the Tawau Health Office in collaboration with Tawau Municipal Council (MPT), involving the Native Chiefs, the Head of the Chinese Community, the Village Head and the Village Community Management Council (MPKK).

Navindran said this year, there is no cases of dengue fever have been recorded as the public may start to realise the importance of getting early treatment, not to mention that they are now providing special dengue counter.

“In the past, people did not want to be warded but after several death incidents, they began to listen to and agreed for treatment,” he said.

Meanwhile, he hopes through the programme, it will raise public awareness on the importance of maintaining hygiene and that responsibility is not only confined to the Health Department nor to the MPT, in particular, in waste management.

He said some people think that fogging will kill mosquitoes while it is only for the purpose of removing adult mosquitoes, while eggs and breeding areas are not destroyed.

He added that a compound of RM200 will be charged against the premise and the homeowner if they were found to have mosquito larva and garbage available for mosquito breeding.

“It is sad that when people make land idle for waste, without thinking about the consequences, they just simply don’t want to be blamed,” he said.

By: Lagatah Toyos.

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Know the signs and get help

Friday, November 29th, 2019
Depression is one of the top causes of death in youths after accidents.

DEPRESSION is a common but serious medical illness.

What are the common signs of depression?

For some, it can manifest in them going on a buying spree as a distraction or as a “self-esteem booster”.

Some 30 per cent of people with major depression hit the bottle.

They are stricken with anxiety and feel the need to drink to assuage their “frayed nerves”.

But drinking alcohol is a shortlived lift.

Alcohol is a depressant, so repeated drinks makes depression worse.

Studies have shown that protracted depression or stress can raise the body’s levels of steroidal hormones.

These levels weaken or shrink the part of the brain associated with memory and learning.

Therefore, depression may cause one to be forgetful. Depression-linked memory impairment is worse for the elderly.

Depression can also be the precursor of low back pain.

Research has shown that up to 42 per cent of people with chronic lower back pain experienced depression before their back pain started.

Also, having chronic pain puts you at risk of depression.

Spending overly large amounts of time on the Internet may also be a sign of depression.

Studies have shown a link between the two.

A 2010 study from the University of Alabama found that young depressed adults also had the inclination to gain weight around their waist — a forerunner for heart disease.

Other studies have linked depression with binge eating, especially in middle-age people.

Treating depression can reverse these setbacks.

It is found that 30 per cent of shoplifters suffer from depression.

Shoplifting provides them with a rush to counter depression.

Depression can lead to suicide. It is one of the top causes of death in youths after accidents.

By Dr A. Soorian

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‘Drinking must be within limits’ advice

Monday, November 18th, 2019

PENAMPANG: It is important to impose limits when drinking as consuming excessive amounts can damage physical health, ruin mental health including addiction besides socio-economic effects such as causing accidents, domestic violence and simply waste of money.“Our message is not to stop drinking but prevent alcohol misuse such as excessive consumption,” said Prof. Dr Helen Lasimbang after organising a 5km run along the hills of Kg Kipouvo here, as President of Apam (Association for Prevention of Alcohol Misuse).

The programme was a pilot project by the association and the first time a run was held at the serene and misty village at 6am.

Prof Helen is an obstetrician gynecologist and CEO of Universiti Malaysia Sabah Hospital.

Regarding the acceptable amount of alcohol that can be consumed, she cited World Health Organisation standards for example beer with 5% alcohol where only one tin or 330 ml and twice per week would be safe.
Lately there is a trend among youths to yell “haaus” as invitation for a beer. “Haus means thirsty so they should only drink to quench the thirst and that is all,” she said in jest. Consuming fine cans of beer is already binge drinking, she warned.
Regarding the practice in some villages to share “siopon” or a small jar of tapai sucked using a bamboo straw, she warned that unclean water used in the jar could cause gastroenteritis infections and transmit infectious diseases such as TB, as proven in areas where the Siopon was a tradition.

Similar statement was made by Sabah Tuberculosis Association recently suggesting the use of  “Tumpung” or mini plastic jars for individual use instead.

However, Prof. Helen said tumpung should not be another excuse for drinking too much.
She said alcohol addiction is considered a disease but, sadly, there are no rehab facilities in Malaysia and urged people to opt for prevention.
Meanwhile her sister Anne who is the village chief of Kipouvo said Penampang District never practised the Siopon culture, preferring to serve “lihing or tapai” in individual bamboo cups also called “suki”.
The two sisters who are both assemblywomen – Janie and Jenifer – jointly flagged off the race at 6 am while brother Senator Adrian joined and completed the 5km hilly run.
The fastest runner was Marvin David completing the course in 28 minutes beating 150 other competitors including ladies, young children and senior citizens.
All the runners and villagers who held an agro-bazaar were given optional free basic health screening provided by a team from UMS hospital.
By: Oswald Supi

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41 out of 375 women have breast cancer early symptoms

Monday, November 4th, 2019

TAWAU: A total of 41 out of 375 women between the ages of 40 and 60 who underwent early breast cancer screening had early symptoms of the disease during roadshows carried out in 10 locations since mid-August.

State Health and People’s Wellbeing Assistant Minister, Norazlinah Arif said, all the women are currently being referred to Tawau Hospital for further treatment are from Tawau, Kunak, Lahad Datu and Semporna.

According to her, the numbers indicate that breast cancer awareness campaign is important in order for more women to benefit and aware of the importance of early screening.

She expressed concern over the community stigma on not wanting to be examined or refusing to accept the fact, adding that there are also those who were diagnosed with early symptoms but opted for traditional treatment instead of going to the hospital.

“These are challenges we need to face together in ensuring our communities, including those in the rural areas are more aware and more open about breast cancer,” said the Kunak Assemblywoman after launching the Breast Cancer Awareness 2019 Campaign.

The campaign was organised by the Tawau Hospital and Tawau Branch Kinabalu Pink Ribbon at the SJK (c) Sin Hwa Hall, here, Saturday.

Norazlinah said the programme is an annual event since 2013 for Tawau Hospital and Kinabalu Pink Ribbon and it is a great effort to raise awareness on the importance of early diagnosis so that prompt treatment can be provided.

Meanwhile, Campaign Chairman cum Tawau Hospital General Surgery Specialist, Dr Tong Yan Yee revealed that the hospital recorded 63 new breast cancer cases in 2018 and 52 cases since January to October this year.

By: Lagatah Toyos.

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One in 4 will get stroke, so let’s get people to care for themselves from young

Thursday, October 31st, 2019
WORLD Stroke Day falls on Oct 29 every year.

Stroke is the leading cause of disability worldwide. It is also the second leading cause of death.

One in four will experience a stroke. However, studies show that up to 90 per cent of strokes could be prevented.

The first step is to understand risk factors, such as hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, alcohol consumption and smoking, while engaging in exercise and eating healthily.

By doing so, we reduce cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes. However, health-related behaviours are often the hardest to change.

Even though the government says it is committed to tackling non-communicable diseases (NCD), the delivery of this promise is slow and often reactionary.

Policymakers need to be more creative in incentivising healthy behaviour rather than just concentrating on promoting health.

Thus, we need to change the approach by building new advocacy approaches and partnerships.

As we do not know if we can ride out the NCD epidemic, let’s not forget the younger generation.

We need to instil the importance of a healthy lifestyle at home and school in people.

Then they will be equipped with knowledge and make the effort to take care of themselves from young.

Health is the most valuable asset one can possess, and since information is power, we should empower people with knowledge.

by Cheah C.F..

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Collaboration skills key to successful teams, projects

Thursday, October 31st, 2019
Collaboration enhances students’ learning potential allowing them to take responsibility for group assignments.

THE saying “two heads are better than one” encourages individuals to work together to be more productive, creative and motivated as a team.

In higher learning institutions, students need to work in groups, be it writing a comprehensive paper, completing a project or making an oral presentation.

The ability to work together and accomplish a shared, common goal is known as “collaboration”, which is one of the four Cs in 21st century learning. The other Cs are critical thinking, creativity and communication.

Being involved in a group project helps students to solve complex problems and achieve better results.

“Qualities like teamwork and synergy are best fostered at university,” said Taylor’s University Bachelor of Psychology stream coordinator and lecturer, Pang Chia Yee.

Group tasks are incorporated into most courses and subjects, and are a part of a student’s assessment.

“Group task does not necessarily apply to big projects and graded assignments but it can be carried out in a topic discussion of a subject. Group assignments usually carry 10 to 30 per cent of the overall marks.

“Failure to cooperate and being participative in group tasks can affect a student’s final grade,” she added.


Instructors and lecturers use collaboration to enhance students’ learning potential, allowing them to take responsibility for group assignments with little supervision. Properly structured group projects encourage students to become active rather than passive learners.

Sunway College Foundation in Science and Technology lecturer Liew Jia Shi said most subjects in a semester require at least one group project.

“Working in groups provides an opportunity for students to engage in different modes of learning, shifting from individual learning to learning in a group via effective discussions.

Pang added: “Group tasks hone higher order thinking skills, so that students can apply the skills and knowledge learnt to come up with ideas,”.

By working in a group, students tackle more complex problems than they can on their own.

“For some projects or assignments, one individual will not be able to complete the task in the given time. Hence, group assignments work better in such scenarios.

“Students who are a bit reserved may hesitate to voice their opinions in a lecture but given the opportunity to work in smaller groups, they are more comfortable in participating,” she said.


Sunway Foundation in Science and Technology student Emily Jean Legada, 18, said that she prefers to work in a group rather than handle individual tasks.

“From simple discussions to graded assignments, working in collaboration promotes healthy peer pressure.

“A group project requires everyone to finish their tasks by a certain time and up to a particular standard. This motivates group members to complete tasks on time as well as put in more effort, increasing the overall quality of work.

“Besides, it gives classmates the opportunity to interact with each other outside class,” she said.

Taylor’s Business School final year student, Poh Song Yang, 22, believes that working in a group setting provides a chance to build greater rapport with peers.

“Often, there is a tendency for university students to group with friends that they are comfortable with. I find working with different groups of people empowers me to learn more.

Students engage in different modes of learning, shifting from individual learning at lectures to learning in a group via effective discussions.

“I benefit from diverse perspectives and knowledge while building new friendships,” he said.

Taylor’s University third year Psychology student Nabilah Hilsya Hashim, 21, said: “When done correctly, group assignments help ease the burden as the tasks are usually delegated among the group members.”

Liew added that working collectively with others fosters effective communication.

“Communication is an important skill which students can develop while working closely with others. We live in close proximity with one another because we are social beings dependent on each other.

“Failure in communication means losing the ability to work with each other. In a group assignment, how can you effectively share ideas with everyone? If there is an argument or conflict, how will you address and solve it effectively? These are just some examples which require good communication skills.

“Good communication skills help ensure that your collaboration experience is a positive and productive one.”


While collaborative learning through group projects has the potential to produce better results, some students find working effectively with others an extremely challenging endeavour when social loafing occurs.

Social loafing happens where students do not pull the same weight in contributing to the group yet receive the same grade as others, said Pang.

“The experience can be dreadful when there are social loafers in a group. However, it challenges students to take charge and work out a solution,” she added.

Being in his final year of studies, Poh has had his share of dealing with social loafers which he calls “free-riders”.

“Often times, unequal participation among team members occurs. When this happens, you have to contribute more and spend more time to cover for the free-riders.

“This behaviour can make group work an unpleasant experience for some. Other team members will be left feeling frustrated receiving the same mark as their fellow non-contributing group members despite producing much of the group work.

“In extreme cases where a member is neither responding nor completing the work, I submit a peer evaluation form to the tutor indicating that he/she has not contributed to the group work.

“This results in either lower marks or complete omission of the individual from the group, depending on the tutor’s review.

“When group work does not work out well, it can lead to resentment between group members, thus potentially jeopardise friendship between members. Also, group performance is usually assessed collectively in which case, my marks can be affected as well,” he said.

Nabilah Hilsya said she can be dominant in a group arrangement due to her outgoing nature when she faces an issue of having to deal with passive group mates.

“Some members are of no help when it comes to brainstorming and problem-solving.

“They tend to rely on the dominant members to do the decision-making which can be frustrating as it creates an unbalanced dynamic in the group’s productivity. When this happens, I will help by being active when it comes to encouraging discussions.

“This will avoid negative outcomes such as low productivity, feeling of dissatisfaction with other group members and lost friendships,” she added.

To avoid social loafing, Pang prepares at least two parts of group assignments — individual and group review.

“At the end of a project, I prepare a peer evaluation form for the students to grade their own group members. There are marks allocated for categories like teamwork and commitment.

“If they feel like one group member has been slacking off, they can collectively give a lower mark for that particular person.”


Group projects can help students develop a host of skills that are increasingly important in the professional world.

In the future, there will be a time when working in a group will not only be helpful but also vital. Therefore, collaboration skills should be honed while in college, said Liew.

“One of the key characteristics that employers seek in hires is the ability to work as a team.

“Day-to-day operations to the development of new projects cannot be accomplished without strong collaborations between employees, be it within a department or a joint effort across various departments in an organisation.

“It is important for the students to learn that everyone has their own way of doing something. They have different personalities and personal preferences that we need to respect.

“Through the process of group tasks, students discover their strengths and weaknesses as well as their peers. Learning to address one’s weaknesses, acknowledging others’ strengths while accepting others’ imperfections are the skills that students can gain from collaborating with others,” he said.

Pang prefers to randomly assign students into groups because it challenges them to work with others whom they are not close to.

“Although some students prefer to be in a group of their cliques, working with other students will push them to adapt to a new working dynamic. When students enter the industry, they do not get to choose their colleagues,” she said.

For Nabilah Hilsya, working in groups helps her to hone communication skills in various aspects especially in negotiation, persuasion and compromise which are essential skills in the workplace.

“In the workplace, we are most likely to work with individuals of diverse backgrounds with their own sets of experiences, ideologies, work ethics and personalities.

“Collaboration in such an environment can help enrich the working experience much more as I am able to learn new things along the way. Being a team player is relevant to mould not only an individual but also a high-performing employee,” she said.


“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”, therefore a proper planning process determines the success of a group project, said Liew.

In planning a group project and keeping it on track, there a few collaboration tools that students opt for.

“Google online collaboration tools are especially useful to monitor an assignment,” Emily said.

“Google Docs allow team members to view, edit and work simultaneously on a document without emailing attachments to each other. It permits those with access to update and make changes to documents.

“On a less formal note, WhatsApp group chats and calls are where most of the discussions happen. It is also the platform used by team leaders to check on team members without being physically present at a group discussion.”

Poh also utilises Google Calendar to set group meetings and deadlines.

“I also prefer Telegram as the main communication tool for a group task as we can pin important messages for everyone’s reference and create quick polls in the group chat.

“I also use Trello which is a to-do list app to organise a task and keep team members’ progress in check.”

By Murniati Abu Karim.

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Run raises awareness of cancer, highlights need for early detection.

Sunday, October 20th, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: Many cancer patients still choose traditional treatment as they cannot afford to go to hospitals, says Tawau Kinabalu Pink Ribbon chairman Christy Salazar.

She said these patients know the importance of getting proper treatment in hospitals, but often decide against going for it due to cost and travel distances.

“Thus, events such as the Pink October Run 2019 for Breast Cancer Awareness held annually is a way to help these needy patients get the treatment they need, ” she said Sunday (Oct 20).

Salazar said she has come across some serious cases where the patients only sought traditional treatment, but she continues advising them to go to the right avenues.

“Through our programmes, we hope to create greater awareness and to raise funds to assist patients in need of help, ” she said.

She also reminded women to do regular self check and go for scheduled mammograms for early detection, which could save their lives.

Meanwhile, Tanjung Batu state assemblyman Datuk Hamisa Samat, who officiated at the event in Tawau, urged the government to expedite the delivery of a mammogram machine promised to the Tawau Hospital since last year.

She said despite repeated calls for a mammogram machine for Tawau, one has yet to be seen.

“The Health Ministry had promised to allocate one for Tawau but until now, it is still ‘on the way’, ” she said.

“I will bring up the urgency of the matter again in the state assembly sitting this Nov 18 because the Tawau Hospital also attends to patients from Kunak, Semporna, Lahad Datu and other nearby areas, ” Hamisa said.

Some 3,000 participants including members of the Tawau Cyclist Association, took part in the 4km run.


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Sabah has most thalassaemia patients in M’sia

Sunday, October 20th, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah has the highest number of patients with thalassaemia in Malaysia. About 80 per cent of all cases in the country are in Sabah and these patients require blood transfusion every month, said Queen Elizabeth Hospital Transfusiologist Saliz Mazrina Shaharom.

She said 69,487 blood units were transfused throughout Sabah in 2018 and 34,588 blood units used from January until June this year across the State

Meanwhile, State Health and People’s Wellbeing Assistant Minister Norazlinah Arif said Sabah is also the second highest State that has anaemic patients.

“It is really important to disseminate awareness on anaemia to the people out there. So, we will organise seminars and even invite doctors from Queen Elizabeth Hospital to give talks,” she said after officiating the MP Iron Clinic’s opening at Plaza Shell on Thursday.

According to Chief Medical Director of MP Iron Clinic Dr. Shorubben Chinetamby, Sabah is suffering from blood deficiency and it is also the second highest state in Malaysia in blood collection.

“Almost two-third of the population of Sabah are women, and statistics shows that more than 1 in every 3 women are iron deficient, thus making Sabah a very high-risk state for iron deficiency,” he said, adding that early symptoms of iron deficiency include fatigue, hair loss, brain fog, poor immune function (prone to common flu and cold), cold intolerance and much more.

He said avoiding or minimising the risk of requiring blood transfusions is critically important.

“Firstly, there is limited supplies of blood in Sabah and it must be reserved for those requiring it for life support such as victims of car crash or for patients with severe thalassaemia.

“Secondly, when given unnecessarily, there is a huge cost to the society as well as significant risks to the patients receiving the transfusion,” he said.

“Iron deficiency is measure with serum ferritin; it is a marker of the iron stores in the body. When the blood concentration fall below 30ng/mL, the body no longer has enough iron in the body.

“Humans cannot make iron so we are 100 per cent reliant on diet. Due to the higher demand, sometimes women cannot get enough iron from diet and other sources may be needed to treat their deficiency. Intravenous iron (or iron administered via the veins) is a viable option for many,” said Dr. Shorubben

He also said clinical data continues to grow and demonstrates that IV iron offers a rapid correction of iron deficiency, often with just 1 injection (given under 1 hour) and symptomatic relief in a matter of days. Improvements in most patients within 1 week.

“For pregnant women, iron deficiency is a significant risk factor. It may lead to pre-term labour, reduced weight of the baby or even post-partum haemorrhage – a major cause of maternal death. Worse, not only is the mother at risk but the baby also has increased risk for iron deficiency which may impair their cognitive development,” he said.

He said although iron deficiency predominately impacts women, men are also at risk as they grow older – especially if having concomitant diseases such as chronic kidney disease, cancer or heart issues.

By: Saila Saidie.

Benefits of peer support for mental health

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019
Combating mental health stigma can encourage students to seek help from professionals. NSTP/ASWADI ALIAS.

TOMORROW, Oct 10, is the annual World Mental Health Day, as declared by the World Health Organisation.

The National Health and Morbidity Survey 2015 by the Health Ministry reported that mental health problems among adults aged 16 and above have increased from 10.7 per cent in 1996 to 29.2 per cent in 2015 and this includes university students.

International Islamic University Malaysia Psychology Department senior lecturer and clinical psychologist Dr Jamilah Hanum Abdul Khaiyom said that research has not found a single cause for this occurrence.

Clinical Psychologist and Psychology Department Senior Lecturer International Islamic University Malaysia, Dr, Jamilah Hanum Abdul Khaiyom . NSTP/ASWADI ALIAS

“However, studies have identified several risk factors which include having problems adjusting to the transition from school to university.

“The transition can impact a student’s well-being. They may not be fully prepared to lead an independent life at undergraduate level.”

Sunway University Psychology Department head and clinical psychologist Associate Professor Dr Alvin Ng Lai Oon said that from his experience, students have trouble adapting.

“There is lack of resilience among students in coping with the demands of tertiary education.

“At the undergraduate level, there is a lot more focus on independent study, innovative problem-solving and personal organisation. They may not have the adequate groundwork prior to entering university,” said Ng.

Sunway University Psychology Department head and clinical psychologist Associate Professor Dr Alvin Ng Lai Oon.

Jamilah added: “Dysfunctional families and traumatic life events also contribute to this issue. For example, coming from an abusive family, or being a victim of physical, mental and sexual abuse can have a long-term effect on mental health.

“Disorders can also develop in university due to physical inactivity. Being highly studious and exempting oneself from physical activities can lead to stress and worsen mental health,” she said.

To strengthen the mental well-being of university students, it is important for the campus community to be educated, dispel the stigma and support each other.


Due to the stigmatisation of mentally-ill persons, many often stay in the shadows and are afraid to seek help.

Jamilah said: “We can see patterns of disorders increasing among students. The stigma is one of the reasons why people do not come forward and choose to ignore the symptoms or go to alternative healers first to be treated. They view psychologists and psychiatrists as a last resort.”

Sunway Peer Counselling Volunteers president and Psychology student Jayashan Chinatamy, 21, noted the severity of mental health disorders and suicidal ideation in recent times.

Sunway Peer Counselling Volunteers president and Psychology student Jayashan Chinatamy.

“There is a causal relationship between stigma and suicide in addition to the prevalence of mental health disorders.

“While the youth are more aware about mental health in comparison to the past, many still do not seek help or utilise available resources due to this stigma that has developed into a cultural taboo,” said Jayashan.

IIUM Secretariat of Psychology president Eusoff Fitri Sarnin, 24, said that from a young age, Malaysians are taught that mental illness is unacceptable.

“As the negative perception increases, those with mental disorder symptoms are left feeling ashamed for fear of being judged.”

IIUM Secretariat of Psychology president Eusoff Fitri Sarnin.NSTP/ASWADI ALIAS


A good support system is important in battling mental illness. For most university students, the ones closest to them are their friends.

Ng, who is also a WHO Malaysia Office mental health consultant, said that there are several warning signs that students can look for to help their friends.

He said: “Signs of mental health issues include social isolation, change in eating or sleep patterns, difficulties with concentration, generally low mood and having difficulty enjoying activities that they typically enjoy.

Sunway Peer Counselling Volunteers trying out the virtual reality activity to visualise what it is like to have schizophrenia during the Return To Light campaign.

“Students can help by checking in on their friends and asking if they are all right. It has been found that normalising the distress — by letting them know that it’s okay to be that way — can help.”

Acceptance is key, according to Ng.

“We help first by not downplaying their distress. It’s important to let them know that we accept them the way they are. Just be a friend — you don’t necessarily have to entertain or talk. Just be with them.

“Often they will feel that they are a burden to others so you need to assure them that you’re there to help willingly and that it’s okay to be helped. You can also suggest that they seek the help of a specialist.

“For those who are struggling, remember that when you need help, allow others to help you,” said Ng.

Shutting people out is another warning sign, Jamilah added.

“Those will mental illnesses usually push people away. These include acquaintances, friends and family.

“Students should be observant if their friends utter statements such as ‘there’s no point in life’ or ‘I don’t want to live anymore’.

“Listen when people talk about their problems and suicide. Don’t invalidate their feelings or give unsolicited advice. Just hear them out.

“Do not be judgemental. Being a human being, it’s normal to be vulnerable,” she added.


An IIUM fourth-year student, who wishes to only be known as Kamilah, said she was diagnosed with Bipolar I disorder.

“To cope, I take medicine at night. During the day, I do deep breathing and mindfulness exercises.”

Kamilah said that peer support is important especially for students who live far from home.

“I usually share my thoughts with family and a few friends. However, most of my friends do not really understand mental illness. Some think that depression is just normal sadness.

“I choose my friends carefully because if I share my problems with a person who is judgemental and has low understanding on mental health, it will only worsen my condition.”

Eusoff Fitri said peer support can be effective but it requires proper training and awareness.

Having recently completed his internship with the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Medical Centre psychiatric ward, he recounted his experience: “During my stint there, I met a university student with social anxiety and suicidal tendencies. As an intern and psychology student, I participated in giving support and motivation. But I cannot give professional advice.

”Having someone to talk to when you have a problem helps.”

At Sunway University, Peer Counselling Volunteers (PCV) is a student body under the guidance of the Sunway Counselling and Wellness department.

Jayashan said: “We act as a peer support network on campus. Our members are trained by professional Sunway counsellors.

We organise events centred on different aspects of mental health, such as positivity, self-care and suicide prevention.”

The purpose of peer counselling is to establish a support network that is approachable.

“We remain impartial to all our peers and focus on empathising, validating and supporting these students in the place of problem-solving.

“We try our best to help and guide them in overcoming their mental health challenges. Through our efforts, we hope to reduce the stigma associated with mental health.”

In terms of peer counselling, Jayashan said the PCV members act as listeners.

“Any Sunway University students can become PCV members. They undergo Personal Development sessions to better understand themselves and the importance of perspective in peer counselling.”

PCV offers both an online platform and a face-to-face counselling session to students.

“Through the online anonymous platform known as Peer-to-Peer, students can write in to us regarding the challenges that they are facing and how they are affected.

“We will provide a detailed reply within three to five working days after consulting the P2P team, led by counsellors from Student LIFE, the student service centre.”

If the online platform is not helpful enough, students can also schedule an appointment with the peer counsellors.

“Each session is conducted by two peer counsellors. Feedback has been positive, with many saying that they felt better after the sessions.”

However, Jayashan pointed out that peer counselling is not a substitute for professional help.

“Some students may require more professional counselling or may need to be referred to a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist for diagnosis. Sunway Counselling and Wellness has affiliations with external mental health platforms and it is more than willing to give referrals.”

Ng said that it is also significant to note that supporting a friend with mental health can be draining.

“If the helper is distressed, seeing a counsellor can help. It’s important to understand that one can get affected by other people’s distress. It’s a human condition.”


It takes a community to address mental illness. Hence, it is crucial to raise collective consciousness on mental health.

Supported by Subang Jaya assemblywoman Michelle Ng, Sunway University, Taylor’s University and Monash University organised the Return to Light: Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Campaign last month.

PCV was the co-organiser with Sunway Counselling and Wellness and Student LIFE.

Jayashan said: “PCV’s responsibilities include facilitating the Youth Mental Health Forum. At the exhibition, we had a virtual reality activity where students learn what it’s like to suffer from schizophrenia.

“The main goal of the campaign was to increase awareness about mental health within the campus as well as with the public.

“Awareness is the first step for many youths to seek help. The campaign achieved this through workshops on active listening and peer support,” said Jayashan.

Jamilah agreed that that it is important to better educate helpers.

“For example, students need to know the difference between self-harm and suicide attempts. There are people who inflict harm on themselves because they want to feel pain or release pent-up emotions, not to stop living.

“Studies have shown that by talking openly about suicide, people will not desire to end their life. In fact, it has the opposite effect.”

Last April, Jamilah and postgraduate Psychology students also conducted a mental health screening campaign to raise awareness.

“The screening was a one-to-one process. A clinical psychology trainee first conducted a brief interview and administered psychological tests with a student.

“Then, we discussed the results with them and provided recommendations to follow up with the IIUM Counselling and Career Unit or the Psychological Service Unit.”

Another effort in spreading awareness was the #HereForYou campaign by the Secretariat of Psychology in collaboration with Befrienders, a not-for-profit organisation providing emotional support, last year.

For the campaign, they filmed a video of IIUM students who were struggling with mental illness.

Students who were diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and depression shared their personal experiences on camera.

Eusoff Fitri said: “It was difficult to get students to talk about their personal struggles. But this video helped to shed light on how anyone can be affected by mental illness.”

The IIUM Secretariat of Psychology has conducted a lot of trainings and programmes to spread awareness on mental health issues for their students.

This year, in conjunction with World Mental Health Day, the secretariat has planned a series of activities for Mental Health Week on Oct 6 to 11.

The programmes include a talk titled Fighting Against Mental Health Stigma, a mental health screening, mental health awareness training and a sharing session for those with mental illness.

Eusoff Fitri said: “The Secretariat of Psychology’s role is to provide the correct information to the university community. We aim to educate students so that they become more aware about the signs, symptoms and types of mental disorders.”

Sunway University counsellor Cassandra Lee conducting personal development workshop for Peer Counselling Volunteers.


A concerted effort is required to address this issue of mental health among university students.

Jamilah said: “Lecturers can play a role. Before I start my class, I conduct some simple mental health-related activities.

“For example, I carry out mindful breathing and explain to students how ithese activities can help them to be more present and aware about mental health.”

“I personally hope that the university can have more clinical psychologists and counselors.”

Ng also said that more counsellors and psychologists are needed on campus.

He added that the university counselling unit should have referral platforms to external professionals.

“If it is not possible, the alternative is to empower students and staff through the PCV programme to handle the milder cases.

“There are evidence-based methods devised by WHO to train laypersons the skills to manage large-scale distress in communities. The same approach can be used within a university.

“The training can give social support to help people improve their functioning towards stronger resilience.

By Rayyan Rafidi.

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Breast cancer awareness vital: Minister

Sunday, October 6th, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: Several breast cancer preventive programmes have been developed by various ministries in Malaysia, said State Health and People’s Wellbeing Minister Datuk Poon Ming Fung.

He said among them are the RM50 subsidy for mammogram by the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, Information System of Pap Smear programme (SIPPS), a call-recall system for women to do pap smear and clinical breast examination (CBE) by the Ministry of Health.

All these programmes, he added, are government efforts to encourage the public to do early detection so that those diagnosed with breast cancer can receive proper treatment.

“Extensive research and study have been done worldwide and the one thing experts and professionals have learned is that early detection is important.

“In fact, early detection is critical for survival so that prompt referral to diagnosis and proper treatment can be undertaken.

“When cancer is detected late, it makes treatment difficult and lowers the chances of survival.

“Early detection is crucial for a successful fight to beat the disease or overcome it.  So how can we detect breast cancer early?

“We can, by raising awareness on the illness.  We have to make the public, especially the female population, aware of what they may be affected with breast cancer and when they do, what they must do next.

“This dissemination of information is done through events, functions, road shows and campaigns,” Poon said in his speech read by his Assistant Minister, Norazlinah Arif, at the Fashion Show Pinktober Tea Party, organised by the Kinabalu Cancer Support Association, at the Palace Hotel ballroom, here, Saturday.

According to Poon, as the Minister of Health, he was alarmed by the increasing rate of breast cancer affecting women in Malaysia.

“Malaysia has one of the lowest survival rates for breast cancer in Asia Pacific, based on a report…this is very worrying.

“Breat cancer is the most common cancer among females worldwide.  In 2014, it was the number one killer in our country.

“However, today, it is the fourth cancer killer affecting women here in Malaysia, according to a local study titled “Who are the Breast Cancer Survivors in Malaysia?

“This mentality that cancer is a death sentence is very dangerous because it creates fear among sufferers who will not be open to health screening, early check-ups and proper treatment.

“On the local front, Kinabalu Pink Ribbon (KPR) has been doing its share of the work for about 10 years now and as you know, it is the international symbol of breast cancer awareness,” he said.

Meanwhile, KPR President Nancy Tham said the event was to raise at least RM30,000 to help the deserving breast cancer patients.

According to her, the money will help the patients to defray the cost of transportation and/or living expenses during their treatment at the hospital.

“Thus far, KPR has given out close to RM90,000 of Patient Welfare Fund which was set up in 2013. For year 2020, it is our hope that KPR will be able to give out another RM30,000.

“Besides financial assistance, KPR is also provides emotional support and mental counselling to patients newly diagnosed with breast cancer,” she said.

By: Cynthia D Baga

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