'Send maids for psychiatric evaluation'

KUCHING, Malaysia - Families should send maids for psychiatric evaluation if they suspect something is amiss.

This better safe than sorry approach could prevent unwanted occurrences, said Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Rohani Abdul Karim.

Referring to the tragedy in Taman Sri Putra, Sungai Buloh, earlier this week, when an Indonesian maid slit the throats of two children under her care before killing herself, Rohani said apart from the maid's physical health, employers should also be mindful of the mental well-being of the hired help.

In that incident, the victims' family had claimed that the maid, identified only as Agnes, was affectionate with the children and had displayed no signs of psychological.

Rohani said the maid could have shown signs of psychological problems, but it could have gone undetected.

Rohani said the ministry had offered the children's parents counselling to help them cope with grief.

"We are saddened by the tragedy and have approached them to offer counselling. But they have declined so far, saying that they are not ready," she said.

"We feel that the sooner they undergo counselling, the better it will be for them," she said, adding that it could also help them when dealing with police on the case investigation.

"The parents are understandably traumatised. We have done what we can to ensure that they are in stable condition to help them come to terms with their loss," she said.

Rohani said hiring a maid was a huge task as it involved caring for a family, especially children.

"In most companies, prospective employees get a three-month period before they are confirmed. But the same isn't practised when it comes to maids.

"Maid agencies also play a pivotal role. Although the mandatory Fomema screening is just for physical problems, agencies can also speak to the maids' friends or relatives back home to get her psychological details as these don't show up in the forms," she said, adding that mental issues could even lay dormant within the first few months.