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11 Aug 2021

Your 101 Guide to Seeking Mental Health Help in Malaysia

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to sweep the nation and countless lockdowns are being implemented, many people are starting to experience “pandemic burnouts” where they feel worn out and unable to cope. Not to mention, the uncertainty of when the lockdowns will end only paints a bleak picture of the future.

If you are concerned about your own or a loved one’s mental health, it may be a good time to get a mental health check-up. We’ve prepared a quick guide on the how-to’s of seeking mental health help in Malaysia, the pricing and what to look out for so that you can start to lead a healthier life.

When you should seek help for your mental health 

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Seeking help is the first step towards getting and staying well, but it can be hard to know how to start or where to turn to. It’s also common to feel unsure and to wonder whether you should try to handle things on your own. However, it’s important to know that it’s okay to ask for help — even if you’re not sure you’re experiencing a specific mental health problem.

Here are signs you might want to seek help:

  • You’re constantly stressed and worrying more than usual
  • You’re having thoughts and feelings that are difficult to cope with, which have an impact on your day-to-day life
  • You’re experiencing lack of sleep and it’s impacting your daily schedule
  • You’re more irritable and finding it difficult to interact with others

Sometimes you don’t even need to be at the extreme end of negativity to seek help. You can simply want to feel better and find more support to cope with your daily schedule, work burnouts or the emotional labour you’ve provided in relationships.

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Where to seek mental health help 

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Mental health help is available in Malaysia at public hospitals, non-governmental organisations and private psychiatry services. While the process may differ from one place to another, help will be provided depending on what you need.

Here are the 3 major types of organisations and how the process and pricing will look like.

  • Public hospitals

You’ll need a referral letter to access the psychiatry services at public hospitals. You can obtain it from klinik kesihatan or Family Medicine Specialist Clinic. Express your concerns and explain your mental health situation. Klinik kesihatan will pass you a DASS (Depression Anxiety Stress Scale) form to assess your situation before giving you a referral letter. After that, head to the respective psychiatry clinic to set an appointment with a psychologist or psychiatrist.

The consultation fees at government hospitals are considerably cheaper and are inclusive of medication if provided. First visit costs RM5 if the referral was from klinik kesihatan and RM30 if the referral was from a private clinic. All follow-up appointments are RM5. However, the price may differ for certain hospitals. For instance, the first visit at University of Malaya Medical Centre costs RM30 with subsequent visits costing RM15. Medication fees may differ depending on what is prescribed.

Note: You may be required to run some tests during your consultation such as blood tests, scans or electrocardiogram for any signs of medical problems.

  • Private services 

Seeking help at private clinics and hospitals is more straightforward. You’re not required to have referral letters in order to receive services there. You can just make a phone call to these private services to set an appointment. Here’s a directory list of the private psychological services provided in Malaysia.

The price for private services leans on the heavier side. A session can go up between RM150 to RM450 per hour depending on the mental health professional’s qualifications and experience or location of the center. There are also fees for the psychological assessments used during the sessions to fully understand and examine a client’s condition. Depending on the duration, number of tests done, the fee can go up to RM500 and above.

Pro Tip: Many private mental health services such as The Mind Faculty, People Psychological Solutions and HumanKind are offering affordable rates for as low as RM50 during the pandemic.

  • Non-profit and university setting

Non-profit mental health organisations are usually run and managed by mental health professionals to help the community treat mental illnesses and spread awareness on mental health. University services, on the other hand, refers to services given by registered psychologists at a specific university and trainees who are pursuing their Master’s degree in clinical psychology or counselling and are working under the supervision of the psychologist.

Accessing these services are pretty simple and direct. You can reach out to them through their number, via website or email by stating your concerns before setting an appointment. Here’s a list of affordable mental health services by non-profit and universities and how you can get in touch.

These organisations are usually free of charge, have very affordable rates or are subsidised by the government. The rate for non-profit centres ranges from RM30 to RM150 per hour depending on the matter. Universities charge significantly lower between RM30 to RM50 per session as you’ll be handled by training counsellors.

Pro Tip: Due to safety concerns, all therapy and counselling sessions will be held online! Make sure you have a internet, smartphone/laptop with functioning camera and microphone as well as a private space for a conducive online counselling session.

What you need to know 

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While mental health services in Malaysia are getting more accessible for everyone, we’re still short of mental health professionals. According to research, the counsellor-to-individual ratio in Malaysia is 1:980,000, a far cry from achieving the WHO’s psychiatrist to population ratio of 1:10,000.

If you’re considering public healthcare services, expect waiting in line for a while. Depending on the urgency of the matter, it might take weeks or even months before you get an appointment or follow up for subsequent check ups.

The waiting list for private services is shorter and clients are able to receive their services almost immediately. However, it does come with a heftier price tag.

As for NGOs and university services, the waiting list depends on the organisation and how many clients they handle.

We hope this guide has given you an insight on how the mental health services look like in Malaysia. It’s valid to feel doubtful and afraid when making the first step in reaching out for counselling, but always remember that your mental health should remain a priority. Everyone can benefit from engaging with a mental health professional to help cope with these unprecedented times.

Are you displacing signs of irritability and demotivation? Watch out for these signs your mental health might be affected from the pandemic.

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