Phoong launches 24-hour youth care line

KOTA KINABALU: Youths who are experiencing any personal or mental issues can now contact the “Kawan Bah” care line, a Sabah-based and youth-centric communication channel that offers psychological help for those in need.

The care line, which is available through call or WhatsApp, was conceptualized by the YouthPREP Centre (YPC) Alamesra to support youths as they cope with various personal issues amidst changing social environments following the Covid-19 pandemic.

During the launching ceremony yesterday, State Youth and Sports Minister Phoong Jin Zhe said that the key to combating mental illness among youths is to ‘listen’ to their problems.

“This is a huge and real challenge. We have to tackle this problem as a community,” he told reporters after launching the event.

“I would also like to urge all the youth associations in Sabah to take this issue seriously,” he said, while stressing that mental health is equally as important as physical health.

Phoong encouraged youths who may be facing personal problems not to be shy when it comes to reaching out for psychological help.

Chin Poh Choo, the Executive Director of Good Shepherd Services, said the care line, accessible at +6012 775 3020, will operate 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

She explained that the care line is not only meant for those who are facing ‘problems’ as the youths can use it to talk about almost anything – from opinions to career guidance.

The phone calls and messages will be answered by ‘psychological first aiders’. They will then assess the case and pass it to their panel of licensed counsellor, in the event there is a need for deeper level of counselling.

In a research conducted by YPC at the start of Phase Two of the

Movement Control Order (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 for students stranded in Kota Kinabalu was a major concern, the physical isolation caused by the early stages of MCO and the need to adapt and cope with a different pattern of life increased their stress levels.

“They were desperate, they were running low on cash and food. They did not have friends to hang out with. So we came in to provide support for them and gave them food supply,” she said.

“We also did a ‘cluster counselling support’ where we grouped the students into clusters and used Google Meet for them to meet one another – so that they know they are not alone,” added Chin.

The care line forms part of a larger project undertaken by YPC to promote mental health and wellbeing among tertiary students in five private institutions in Kota Kinabalu.

The nine-month project called “Mind Matters: Supporting Youth Mental Health and Well-being during Covid -19” is also aimed at establishing a network of peerto-peer support for students across the five private colleges to enable them to collectively have a voice and advocate for the mental health and well-being of youths in Sabah.

This project will also see a collaboration of expertise between Good Shepherd Services and experts in the field of clinical psychology, counselling and research.

Funding for this project comes under the Hasanah Special Grant launched by Yayasan Hasanah in partnership with the Ministry of Finance as part of Malaysia’s Economic Stimulus Package 2020 launched in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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