Filipinos seeking mental health counseling spiked during lockdown - support providers

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 08 2020 10:20 PM

MANILA — Two institutions offering teleconsultation on mental health have seen a substantial increase in the number of people seeking help, officials said Monday.

Dr. Bernard Argamosa, a psychiatrist of the National Center for Mental Health, said the center's crisis hotline received an average of about 953 calls per month from March to May, compared to just 400 a month from May last year to February this year. The hospital also received an average of 45 suicide-related calls per month.

Argamosa said many of the callers asked about dealing with anxiety.

“Good mental health is critical to the functioning of society at the best of times. It must be front and center of every country’s response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Argamosa said, quoting the United Nations.

The crisis hotline (0917 899 8727, or 1553 for landline) served a total of 6,905 Filipinos in the past year, according to Argamosa at the Department of Health’s televised briefing.

Meanwhile, the NCMH’s separate COVID-19 hotline provided psychosocial support to 2,298 Filipinos. Many called due to health concerns, although there were some who shared problems about finances and travel.

The NCMH COVID Hotline is 0949 568 2910 for Smart and 0966 351 4518 for Globe.

It also has a telemental health response website for health workers and repatriated Filipinos -

Despite the lockdown, Argamosa said the NCMH continued to offer out-patient service, refilling medications of almost a thousand patients from March 16 to May. The hospital also started issuing e-prescription for those who cannot go to the center.

Meanwhile, the University of the Philippine Diliman Psychosocial Services (UPD PsycServ), established in 2017, received an average of 46 calls per day. A maximum of 120 calls was reached a day. 

Dr. Violeta Bautista, director of UP PsycServ, said most of the callers were around 18 to 39 years old. 

People can sign up for PsycServ by texting or sending a message on Viber to 0916 757 3157 or 0906 374 3466. They can also visit the website htttp://

Bautista said that Filipino generally understand the importance of mental health.

“Nang pumasok ang pandemya lalong naging malinaw ang halaga ng mental health,” she said, pointing out that the pandemic and the subsequent community quarantine caused a lot of stressors and uncertainties.

(When the pandemic started, the importance of mental health became more important.)

Filipinos should not be ashamed of seeking help, Bautista said, encouraging more people to call the PsycServ hotline.

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted lockdown measures beginning mid-March in many parts of the country to curb the spread of the disease.