BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – If you or someone you know is struggling with depression and considering any acts of self-harm including suicide, please contact 145 for assistance.

The National Mental Health helpline “Talian Harapan 145” (TH145), will begin operations on February 12, in the wake of a worrying surge in suicide cases between 2016 and 2017.

“The TH145 is a [12-month] pilot service under the Ministry of Health,” said consultant physiatrist, Dr Hilda Ho, in a press conference on Tuesday.

“For the first six months it will operate on extended hours from 8am to 11pm, which is when we expect to cover the majority of callers.”

The service is also equipped with a system that can monitor calls received outside of these operating hours.

“After six months of operation, we will investigate if there is a need for or high demand for the service to be extended to 24 hours,” Dr Ho told media.

Minister of Health, YB Dato Paduka Dr Hj Md Isham Jaafar(C); Pg Dr Hj Md Khalifah (L) director-general of Medical and Health Services; and Dr Hilda Ho (R) consultant physiatrist during the press conference announcing the launch of Ministry of Health’s suicide prevention helpline ‘Talian Harapan 145’ on February 12, 2019. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

The helpline can receive two callers at a time, which will be dealt with according to a standard operating procedure (SOP) that allocates a maximum of 15 minutes for each call.

All TH145 counsellors are trained to adhere to the SOP as best as possible whether it is during a crisis call or not.

For callers who are contemplating suicide, helpline operators are trained to focus on the safety of the caller, helping them to be calm and address their distress.

In cases where emergency services are required from the ambulance or police, TH145 operators will request a dispatch from those services.

Dr Ho said TH145 operators are health professionals who have received training in providing mental health assistance to callers.

“TH145 does not aim to replace face-to-face professional mental health services. TH145 advisors may suggest that callers needing assistance from mental health services or other health services should attend a face-to face assessment,” she added.

The Ministry of Health guarantees that every call and the callers’ personal details will be kept confidential, said Dr Ho.

Calls to TH145 are free for both landlines and mobile phones.