The prevalence of mental health among school children and adolescents affects 424,000 children every year. The National Health and Morbidity survey in 2019 estimated the prevalence of mental health problems among school going children and adolescents at 9.5%. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health problems has risen due to the effect of national lockdown. Untreated mental health among school going children and adolescents has long term consequences on health, productivity and well-being in later life. Unfortunately, the current ratio of psychiatrist to the population is below the recommended ratio by WHO and the needs of mental health services among school children and adolescents requires further inspection.
A combination of a policy critique, scoping review and a qualitative study among stakeholders were used for this policy brief. The databases included PubMed, EBSCOHost, Scopus, Ovid, ERA, MyCite, dan Google Scholar, producing a final search of 23 documents. The review was followed by a qualitative study consisting of focus group discussions and in-depth interviews with relevant stakeholders using framework analysis. Themes that emerged include accessibility of mental health services, structural and attitudinal barriers of accessing services and unmet needs; and recommendations for healthcare professionals and the services. Evidence from this policy will assist policymakers and stakeholders on planning and filling up the gap of mental health services in Malaysia.
This policy brief will discuss the policies on mental health among children and adolescents, challenges and recommendations to improve mental health.