'Mental health crisis' among Marawi evacuees alarms officials

Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 08 2017 06:17 PM

MARAWI CITY- Local crisis officials have declared a "mental health crisis" among residents affected by the long-drawn conflict here after signs of mental illness manifested in over 30,000 displaced residents. 

Data from the Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO) revealed that as of Aug. 1, at least 30,732 evacuees have manifested mental disorders. 

Authorities attributed such incidence to the prolonged war, difficulties in living conditions in evacuation centers, and hopelessness as they faced a bleak and dim future. 

"This is an emerging issue right now. Mental health issues should be part of the recovery plan," said Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesperson of the Lanao del Sur Provincial Crisis Committee.

Specific types of illnesses were not identified, but officials classified the cases based on severity. 

Out of the over 30,000 cases recorded by the IPHO, 6,455 were classified as Level 2, which requires psycho-social debriefing; 24,199 as Level 3, or those in need of one-on-one treatment; and 78 cases as Level 4, where patients require medication and treatment in a designated facility. 

There has yet to be a case classified as Level 5, or the worst level, where patients could no longer communicate properly, may turn violent, and already require medication. 

ABS-CBN News was able to interview Usman (not his real name), who is being monitored for his mental condition -- possibly a Level 4 case, according to a doctor. 

Usman said he does not know what is happening to Marawi City, and responded to the other questions with different and unrelated answers. 

Authorities said Usman has been staying at the provincial capitol since the war began. Usman, they said, has not seen his wife and children since he evacuated.

Another patient, Kalid (not his real name), also talked to ABS-CBN News. Kalid could still respond well to some of the questions but sometimes, he gives answers that are out of reality. 

Adiong is appealing for help as the problem is beyond the crisis committee's capabilities as they lack the facility and experts to deal with severe cases.

"Ito ang mga challenges na nakikita natin from the ground, kulang 'yung ating experts to continuously provide assistance to IDPs (internally displaced people), plus the locations of evacuation sites is a challenge," he said.

"I guess we have DOH (Department of Health) and DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and development) to tie up [with], and maybe intensify humanitarian response among others, and include mental health," he added, saying most of the help they get are food assistance.