Building Malaysia’s Tomorrow: Mental and Behavioural Health
The prevalence of children with mental health problems is 13.9% (children in lower household income) and among the specific mental health problems are children with peer problems, children with emotional problems (including children who feel unhappy and often worry), conduct problems, hyperactivity and lack of pro-social skills.
These are known consequences of play deprivation and weak parent-child bond. 4 in 10 households in Malaysia do not have toys for children less than 5 years old (UNICEF). Unfortunately, Malaysian children in lower-income areas also expressed that they do not feel safe to play in their housing area and there is a lack of safe space for them to play.
Play is essential to children’s development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth. The act of playing has been recognized by the United Nation High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child. Parents need to be aware and knowledgeable on how to stimulate children’s development through play since birth. A study has shown, toddlers who were given weekly play sessions to improve mother-child interactions for 2 years were followed to adulthood have better educational achievement, less depression, and less violent behavior. The effects of play and strong parent-child relationships on brain plasticity since early childhood build a strong foundation for lifelong health and well-being.
How do we help them? They are Malaysia’s tomorrow.
We have been working (in collaboration with Toy Libraries Malaysia – NGO that help to set up community Toy Library in the underprivileged community) with children and their families from lower-income households in urban Kuala Lumpur and observed that the children are lacking in certain play skills which causes learning difficulties in school.
For example, Ilisya, 6 years old is having a problem with reading and writing. She has low self-esteem because of her difficulties. When she writes, there’s no space in between words and it is difficult for her to read because she has trouble with spatial vision skills. Her condition improved with several play sessions that stimulate the skills and it helped her to perform better in school and prevented possible bully and depression. The play sessions also strengthen the bond between her and her mother.
There are a lot more stories of the individual child and their families. Most children are having poor executive function skills which can easily be learned through play. They all benefit from the developmental and play screening done at their People’s Housing Program (PPR) housing as well as at the clinic (Klinik Kenit) and subsequent play intervention at the Toy Library (Community Toy Library at the PPR and Kenit Toy Library). Play also improves caregiver mental health conditions like maternal depression as it is a risk factor for poor physical growth and development in young children.
Klinik Kenit is registered as a primary healthcare clinic with a focus on early child health services. It serves as the first contact for any health needs at all ages. There are two core services in helping the family to support the healthy development of their children, the infant mental health services and the toy library. Early childhood is the crucial period of rapid changes when the architecture of the brain is most open to the influence of relationships and experiences. Parents need to know how to be secure hands and safe haven for their children, help the children to organize their feelings and appropriately respond to the children’s needs. This will prevent a lot of social issues in older children. And the best way to strengthen this is in the primary healthcare setting where parents will bring their children for regular check-ups. Measuring play is a developmental domain that is critical to early intervention.
A healthy life is an outcome of sustainable development and the best investment is to pay more attention to young children and their families now.
Children with behavioural and developmental issues are not being identified and not getting proper help and intervention in early-stage which can put them at risk of physical and mental illness.
Klinik Kenit’s social goal is to identify behavioural and developmental issues in young children and provide necessary personalized intervention while empowering parents towards excellent parenting. We envision a community that has the knowledge and the ability to support the children to reach their full potential. Only then we can see the impact on the brain development of the early years and achieve breakthrough solutions to some of the most challenges facing parents, communities and nations. The aim is to build a healthy and happy nation.
To achieve the goal, we need to generate income through service fees from clinical practice as well as the intervention programs in the clinic. Then we allocate 2 days a week for screening and intervention for high-risk groups – B40, refugees and families affected with social issues. They will only need to pay minimal fees, screening is also done at their residential area (PPR flats) every Saturday. Continuation of care and their progress are monitored at the clinic. With enough resources (budget and additional permanent team members), we can help up to 40 children (more children with more team members) and families per month in the surrounding urban Kuala Lumpur communities.
We are crowdfunding for developmental screening in the community. We want to screen as many children and families in urban PPR, the refugee community and families with issues. We require more experienced and dedicated team members to do the program and provide intervention services and support. The team aims to help 10 children per session (in adherence to SOP to reduce the spread of Covid-19), twice a week and about 40 children/families per month.
The additional objective of the program is to get the data on the level of our children’s development according to their age. The percentage of how many children are having developmental delays and which developmental skills are the most affected in the children. We want to identify the core issues on why our children are not developing to their full potential and to provide support and solutions. This data will help not only us but other organizations who are working with the community (policymakers, NGO, etc).
For every RM100 donated, the establishment of the project would enable two underprivileged children to benefit from the developmental screening in the next 12 months. The screening/assessment is done by professionals and usually takes about 1-2hours. The intervention is done by a dedicated therapist at the toy library. This initiative is still small but the impact on each child is a life-changing effect and it is BIG enough.
Klinik Kenit is a primary health care provider that acts as the first point of contact for all important health needs. They provide high-quality family-centred care in a supportive environment and aim to create excellence in community health, specifically designed for children and families.
Alliance Islamic Bank SocioBiz is a donation crowdfunding platform that aims to empower financially disadvantaged communities through entrepreneurship