By Andrew Mohanraj
It was an honour for the national movement for mental health when a notable advocate for mental health from Malaysia was appointed International Patron for World Mental Health Day 2020. Her Royal Highness Princess Iman Afzan Al-Sultan Abdullah, the eldest daughter of the Malaysian King, described her appointment as an honour for Malaysia. She has taken on this responsibility with passion evident in an immediate statement declaring her support to decriminalise suicide . Malaysia remains one of the few countries in the world which continues to categorise suicidal attempt as a crime. The Princess called for a re-examination of the relevant section in the Penal Code. Subsequent to the call, several parliamentarians have expressed their desire to debate on the matter in the next parliamentary sitting. The Malaysian government, led by the Honourable Minister for Health too responded positively to the call made by Princess Imam.
Her Royal Highness is also heading the national Green Ribbon Campaign to create awareness on mental health as well as to garner support for national mental health initiatives. Their Majesties , the King and Queen of Malaysia have also indicated enthusiastic support for this project by agreeing to have the green ribbon pinned on them on World Mental Health Day. The Green Ribbon Pin itself will be presented with the logo of the WFMH and the World Dignity Project in the background, to indicate the support and inspiration provided by the international organization and the project. Both these logos will also be used in all world mental health day publicity material and events throughout the country. A national level WMHD event is also expected to be launched in tranquil township outside the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, which will be attended by the Honourable Minister for Health Malaysia and HRH Princess Imam.
This initiative by Princess Iman is expected to garner nationwide participation leading to greater commitment towards ensuring greater access to mental health services, keeping in line with the theme of World Mental Health Day this year. The office of Princess Iman is also closely collaborating with mental health organisations in Malaysia including the Malaysian Mental Health Association to organise a series of events related to WMHD which will implemented throughout the period leading up to next year’s World Mental Day. The events planned include a series of webinars, opening of psychosocial rehabilitation and crisis centres, a book on mental health co-authored by Princess Iman and potentially organising a regional mental health conference and charity gala dinner cum book launch under royal patronage.
The appointment of Princess Iman will undoubtedly result in greater awareness of mental health and scaling up of mental health services not only in Malaysia but in the region as well.