The new 2018 budget has been tabled and there is an increase in the Health Ministry 2018 budget from RM 25 billion in 2017 to RM26.58 billion in 2018.
Unfortunately we have yet to see a specific mental health allocation in the health budget.
There was no mention of increasing mental health resources in Malaysia, despite mental illness being one of the top contributors to the Burden of Disease in Malaysia – costing 2942 years per 100, 000 people, or approximately 900 000 healthy life years are lost to mental illnesses every year. Mental illness is estimated to cost 2 – 4% of the Gross National Product, with indirect cost (e.g. loss of income, loss of productivity, loss of life) outweighing the direct cost (treatment) of mental illness.
The ASEAN report of Mental Health Systems (2016) revealed that Malaysia spends merely .28 – .39% of the health budget on mental health. Despite mental illness causing more loss of health to Malaysians compared to many other non-contagious physical diseases, mental illnesses remain low on the priority list. Moreover, mental illness is a risk factor for physical diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, neurological disorders, diabetes mellitus or cancer.
World Health Organization estimates that there is a $4 dollar return for every dollar invested into mental health.
A quick recap:
In 2015, there were:
9 million Malaysians with a mental health issue
In 2016, there were
163 Psychiatrists + 314 Medical Officers + 12 Clinical Psychologists + 188 Counsellors
servicing the mental health need in Malaysia in Ministry of Health facilities.
Even if we include other health professionals such as nurses and occupational therapists, the total number of health care professionals who are able to meet mental health needs in public health care is 2780.
The maths simply do not add up, and we need more than just ad-hoc mental health expenditures. The mental health crisis must be addressed explicitly, effectively and urgently.