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Universiti Malaya inks MoU on mental health with pharma, launches mental health initiative

Pank Jit Sin
24 Mar 2020
Zulkefly witnessing the MoU signing between UM and J&J

Universiti Malaya (UM) recently launched the UM Mental Health Initiative, a platform to push for mental health activities in the university. The initial focus of the initiative will be on students and the university signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Johnson & Johnson Sdn Bhd (J&J) on initiatives to innovate teaching and learning in healthcare. Of note is the component on mental health, which is aligned to the MOH’s #Letstalkmindasihat initiative launched in 2019.

Those present at the signing ceremony were Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, former Minister of Health of Malaysia; Chin Keat Chyuan, managing director, J&J Malaysia; and Professor Dr Noorsaadah Abdul Rahman, deputy vice-chancellor (Research and Innovation), Universiti Malaya. Noorsaadah said the Universiti Malaya Mental Health Initiative was started by UM’s Community Engagement and Sustainability Centre (UMCares) together with the Student Counselling Centre, Student Health Centre, UM Sustainability and Living Labs Secretariat, and the UM Faculty of Medicine, in partnership with J&J Malaysia.

The MoU between UM and J&J covers projects related to healthcare which include urology, orthopaedics and mental health. J&J and J&J Institute will be helping UM to develop teaching and learning projects online and offline. These projects will assist in empowering more healthcare providers to be knowledgeable and skillful in the three areas of health. The MoU will go beyond teaching and learning initiatives, noted Noorsaadah, and will include collaboration on staff and student development by way of internship programmes and mutually beneficial activities for both parties.

The focus on mental health is timely as a study published by the Faculty of Medicine among more than 1,000 undergraduate students in UM discovered that almost 30 percent experienced depression and 4.4 percent reported severe depression, said Noorsaadah. Among the noted risk factors for poor mental health were living off campus, lower socioeconomic backgrounds, poor sleeping habits, and a history of post-traumatic stress disorder. The study highlights the necessity for institutes of higher learning to place more attention on the mental needs of students.

Chin, in his delivery, said public-private partnerships are key in creating the most effective results. “Today, I am honoured to witness yet another milestone with this MoU with UM, which demonstrates our commitment to forge ever stronger public-private partnerships in addressing healthcare needs of the nation … This MoU signifies the start of a long partnership that aims to elevate and advance our healthcare and education landscape in the country. I am truly excited and hope you are, too.”

Dzulkefly lauded the collaboration between UM and J&J, saying the inclusion of the mental health component will benefit the MOH and its #Letstalkmindasihat initiative launched in October 2019. The impetus to focus on mental health comes as a result of the findings of the 2015 National Health and Morbidity Survey, which found 16 percent of youths aged between 10 and 19 to have mental health problems, namely depression, anxiety and stress. He said the ministry is aware of the trials and challenges faced by adolescents during their period of growth, hence the #Letstalkmindasihat initiative. The objectives of the initiative are to improve mental health awareness and reduce stigma; improve knowledge of target populations (including youth) on mental health and illnesses; encourage those affected to seek help; and to encourage friends and family to provide support whenever possible.

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