Dr. Hazli B. Zakaria

On behalf of MPA, I would like to congratulate the website committee team members for the completion of upgrading MPA’s website. For myself, finally I managed to complete the speech to be put in the President’s speech column of the newly revamped website.  It has been many months since the handover of the presidency and was awarded an extension into the second term 12 months ago, and this pandemic made it felt much longer. As a team we have fulfilled some of our promises to move forward together despite the challenges due to Corona.

We continue the tradition of having our annual meeting, MCPM which provide the platform for scientific discussion related to mental health and psychiatric disorder and also an opportunity for MPA members to reconnect with each other. The committee members have worked hard to ensure the success of 23rd MCPM with the theme of Cutting Edge Evidence Based Treatment, a joint effort with psychotherapy section of World Psychiatric Association (WPA). Despite the threat of pandemic Covid 19, 24th MCPM was successfully organised via virtual platform for the first time. The tradition of having our annual meeting continues with a hybrid format; physical and virtual platform. The theme for this year is Optimizing Knowledge, Proving Support & Aiding Recovery.

As a part of tradition, MPA continues to be involved in the discussion assisting the government in improving the mental health services through MPA’s presence in Majlis Penasihat Promosi Kesihatan Mental. They were 3 issues brought up by MPA in the meeting; decriminalisation the suicide, insurance coverage for mental illness, review of mental health act 2001 and mental health regulation 2010. MPA also involves with mental health literacy package which initiated by Ministry of Health. MPA is part of Let’s Talk Minda Sihat programme which was launched in October 2018, a platform for every parties to talk about a mental health especially the patients and their family members. 

Psychiatrists has been talking and promoting about mental health and mental illness for so long and it is about time for others to talk and allowed others to help us in increasing awareness, of course we will support from behind. They probably could do much better job. However, MPA is still continue to promote mental health through supporting the activities organised by MPA members.

As a tradition, MPA continue in providing platform for educational activities to the members especially to the early career psychiatrists, trainees and medical doctors by organizing workshop, symposium, dinner talk, meeting with the assistance of pharmaceutical company. There were also workshops which organized by MPA members in which being supported by MPA through endorsing the meeting or provide a small financial assistance. Every year MPA has also organized post graduate research competition and MPA best practice award to encourage research and innovative strategies in improving the services, another partnership project with pharmaceutical company without losing the integrity; a win-win solution inherited from the past, also part of the tradition. The leadership and administrative workshop which introduced by the past president, Dr Abdul Kadir was continued and being improvised in term of its delivery.

MPA has continued the tradition of being the reference point when it related to the issue of mental health. MPA encourage members to express their opinion in traditional and social media to help the public understand on certain issues. MPA also supported the work of Assoc. Prof Chan Lai Fong and her team in educating the media on suicide reporting and their work in training the frontliner in suicide prevention. MPA continue being the advocate for patients and family members to fight for their rights and reduce the stigma discrimination faced by them. The collaborative work with MMHA and MIASA have started to show the impact as the awareness on the issues has increased.

While waiting for the term to be completed in 2022, the spirit of working forward together will continue, MPA has started the collaborative works beyond mental health fraternity. Mental health is everyone’s responsibility and there is a strong association between mental illness and other illnesses. Ministry of Health have done a lot to improve the services related to other illnesses and it is time for mental illness to be given the same attention considering the increase prevalence of mental illness based on the recent statistic especially during this pandemic. Moving forward, MPA should increase our engagement with other medical specialities, other ministries and stake holders like Bank Negara Malaysia, insurance agencies, PERKESO, corporate companies, DBKL, SUHAKAM, FINAS and few others “unusual” partners

MPA will have a better engagement with media agency in view of the importance role of social media in improving accessibility to the target group especially the youth. It is a very impactful strategy to empower the patients and family members to be the advocates on mental health issues. MPA will supports and involves in more activities in training the patients and family members. Together with KKM and Johnson & Johnson, the Circle of Hope project which led by Dr Firdaus Ghani has been completed and the ‘soft launch’ was done recently. 

It is time for MPA to explore outside the usual territory, engaging more with international organization such as World Psychiatric Association (WPA), World Health Organisation (WHO) and also United Nation (UN). MPA would be more involved in helping the government to fulfil Malaysia’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) which adopted in 2015 especially the agenda 3 which is on good health and wellbeing. Through the pledge to leave no one behind, it is a time for patient with mental health not to be left behind. 

Despite there are some progresses in the insurance coverage for mental health patient, there are lot of works to be done. We should continue fighting for universal coverage for all Malaysians. It is important for the government to be the authority of in-charge for the insurance coverage rather than letting it to be led by the insurance companies. Mental health in workplace is another important aspect for us to address urgently as workplace is one of the sources of psychological stress. This matter becomes more relevant and in demand as the workforce starts to go back to be fully physical as before. 

Psychiatrists should look beyond treating the patients in the clinic. Getting involved in assisting occupational health doctors in providing a better and more comprehensive preventive services to the employees should be another priority. The collaboration with the employers, department of occupational health, Unions and NIOSH should be in the agenda. Psychiatrist should be part of the team as we know what are the outcome if the employees with mental illness are not being detected early. Prevention activities should be given as much attention as the treatment. 

As a professional society, MPA should have a mechanism for us to monitor our profession and its professionalism. We should have an independent committee to deal with issue related to complaints toward MPA or MPA members or psychiatrists in general. The unethical and professional misconduct of psychiatrists are important issue which need to be handled delicately. At the same time, there could be some complaints to tarnish the image of our members and psychiatrist in general, which need to be managed as well. In my opinion, it is timely for such independent committee to be formed. It is important for us to maintain the high standard of professionalism and integrity and keeping the trust of the public towards psychiatrist and to protect our members as well. 

Lastly, as I said earlier we can’t depend on psychiatrist only on this mental health issue. Everyone must to take part on this matter to help those people who are facing problem with their mental health. Even the doctors themselves should reach out in seeking help, doctors are human too and it applies to psychiatrists as well. I hope Malaysian will realise the importance of maintaining good mental health. Having a good physical health doesn’t mean we can function normally if we are struggling with our mental health and its vice versa. The phrase of “there is no health without mental health” should be our mantra and it was translated into the action form. However, there are still stigma spreading around about mental illness and we have to be “bolder” in fighting against it.  

Finally, I hope now we can move forward together with great enthusiasm to fulfil Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) agenda.

Welcome to 2022, towards 2030.

Thank you,

Hazli Zakaria,

President of Malaysian Psychiatric Association.