Feeling Troubled? Ring Up Kawan Bah

By ILONA ANDREW
KOTA KINABALU: Youths who are feeling weighed down by issues and need someone to talk to can now dial a number for help.

They are encouraged to reach out to the YouthPREP Centre’s (YPC) “Kawan Bah” careline on 0127753020.

“Kawan Bah” which is available 24/7 is a communication channel that encourages those entering young adulthood to acknowledge and speak about their personal mental health and well-being.

Youth and Sports Minister Phoong Jin Zhe who launched the programme today said such a careline was an important platform for youths who struggle with mental health issues.

“This careline is good and important for youths who need mental health support or someone who is all ears about their problems as it offers counselling service.

“One of the greatest weapons to fight mental health issues is listening so when youths do not have the space or platform to express their problems and sadness, it would lead to negative thinking. This is what we want to tackle as a whole,” he said after launching the event at the centre here, today.

“I also want to urge all youth organisations to take mental health issues seriously, not just hold activities about sports or a healthy lifestyle.”

According to him, the Sabah Youth Aspiration Centre set up under his ministry is also a very important agency that tackles such issues in addition to holding activities that are in line with youth aspirations.

“The ministry is working closely with these organisations and we have a group of people to help promote such service,” he asserted, adding that the ministry will not hesitate to exhaust its programme funding to assist any youth-centric organisation.

Meanwhile, Chin Poh Choo, the executive director of Good Shepherd Services (GSS) which operates YPC said the “Kawan Bah” careline is a natural extension of the work and service provided by the organisation.

“Counselling and care support service is very natural for the work that we have been doing.

“We were working with about 200 stranded students during the implementation of the movement control order (MCO) by giving food supplies and providing group counselling, among others, so this careline is an extension of the experience that we had during the MCO,” she stated.

In a research conducted by YPC at the start of the second phase MCO in April, it was found that 77 per cent of 161 youths interviewed experienced heightened anxiety, sadness and boredom which made them restless and increased their mental health vulnerability as they were uncertain about their situation.

The research also revealed that while financial sustainability was a major concern, the physical isolation caused by the early stages of the MCO and the need to adapt and cope with a different pattern of life increased their stress levels.

Chin said acting upon the findings of the research, team members and volunteers were mobilised to conduct a check-in session with YPC’s beneficiaries who had been receiving food supplies and personal hygiene kits.

“Mental health is always seen as negative because it sometimes immediately draws to mind that something must be wrong with a person, but it’s not necessarily that.

“Sometimes people just want an opinion and need to be listened to and the careline is always open to that,” she said.

“Psychological first aiders will be the one to take the calls and assess the case as well as provide support, but in the event that there’s a deeper level of counselling that’s required then we have a panel of counsellors that we can refer to.

“We are working with a number of volunteers, such as psychologists and licensed counsellors who help train the psychological first aiders,” she explained.

GSS is a non-profit organisation registered with the Companies Commission of Malaysia and has extensive grassroots services in Malaysia by reaching out to women or girls in pregnancy and other forms of crisis, women and children experiencing domestic violence, as well as children and youths who have limited access to educational opportunities.