MANILA (UPDATED) — It was around late 2017 or early 2018 when Trisha Padlan, 24, who has clinical depression and bipolar disorder, suffered an extreme anxiety attack one midnight.
“I have something to vent out but I have no one to talk to. It was really hard. I was having a hard time breathing,” said Padlan.
Beset with trust issues and discomfort around people, Padlan opted to speak with a stranger on suicide hotline Hopeline Philippines. The psychological intervention, which she describes as very professional that it did not require her to identify herself, helped her get through the ordeal.
“Ever since then, kapag feeling ko wala akong makausap, although ang daming nagsasabi na puwede ko silang kausapin, sa Hopeline talaga ako usually kumakausap ng random person kasi mas nakakatulong siya sa akin,” said Padlan, who often grapples with thoughts of suicide.
(Ever since then, when I feel that I do not have anyone to talk to, although a lot of people are saying that I can talk to them, I usually to talk to a random person because they are more helpful.)
She continued: “As a person with anxiety, parang mas gusto ko ’yung papakinggan na lang ’yung pinagdadaanan ko kaysa ’yung magtatanong nang magtatanong ng other questions na out of topic naman na parang gagatungan pa ako, na parang may pinagdadaananan ka na nga, dadagdagan pa nila ’yon.”
(As a person with anxiety, I just want to be heard about what I am going through instead of being constantly asked questions that are actually out of topic, that they will add more fire, that you are already going through something and they will still add up to the problem.)
Therapy is costly. For Padlan, her monthly session costs P2,000 per hour, with an additional charge of P1,000 for each exceeding hour.
And for urgent interventions any time of the day, the free helpline has been helpful.
Recently, Hopeline, a national support hotline for depression and suicide prevention developed by the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation, was the one that needed saving.
In the brink of a shutdown this week, Hopeline found help in Globe Telecom, the Natasha Goulbourn foundation, corporations and private donors who vowed to continue support following the "withdrawal" of government backing.
The announcement followed its post Tuesday, where it said it was going to end operations by July 1 after the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH), which is under the Department of Health, decided to withdraw its support.
It also sought donations to continue operations.
The announcement on Tuesday drew comments from those who it had apparently helped, with messages of gratitude for saving their lives.
Hopeline was established in September 2016 with help from NCMH as part of government's campaign to provide free support to people who have mental health concerns.
SUICIDE HOTLINE MANDATED BY LAW
Sen. Risa Hontiveros said mental health must be a government priority.
Dissolving the hotline means adding “another layer to the wall” to people who need proper mental healthcare, she added.
Part of the implementing rules and regulations of the Mental Health Law, which Hontiveros authored, is to mandate the DOH to establish a 24/7 suicide prevention hotline.
“Seeking help is a major milestone for those who have mental health issues. It is the gateway to their healing. The hotline is a monetary and emotional jump board for those who are not yet ready to emotionally and physically to reach out. The hotline eases the process of healing, and makes it more accessible to everyone,” she said.
ABS-CBN News reached out to NCMH for comment but has received no response as of this posting.
It launched last month its own 24/7 crisis hotline (09178998727 and 9898727) to also provide free assistance to individuals with mental health concerns.
LACK OF ACCESSIBLE, AFFORDABLE MENTAL HEALTH CARE
Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) from 2016 shows that more than 800,000 people die by suicide each year, a number that translates to 1 death every 40 seconds.
In the Philippines, around 3 million people suffer from “depressive disorder,” with an estimated 2,558 self-inflicted deaths annually, according to WHO.
The Philippines ranks 150 out of 170 countries included in a WHO report on suicide prevention.
Mental health advocate and psychiatrist Dr. Gia Sison said the Philippines needs more healthcare providers, especially as it faces a problem in the number of medical practitioners for the country's mental health patients.
Treatment is also costly, with consultation with psychiatrists ranging from P2,500 to P5,000.
Based on ABS-CBN Research and Investigative Group, there are only 2 mental health workers for every 100,000 population.
According to Sison, the price in consulting a private psychiatrist in some area ranges from P2,500 to 5,000.
“One of the big issues in mental health advocacy is access to care. We all know that the ratio, in doctors alone, there’s already a problem, even in the level of psychologist, guidance counselor,” said Sison, who also works for a tele-health firm that provides mental health first aid.
She added, “Access, affordability – those are the main issues that the Hopeline addresses.”
For years, mental health conditions was not covered by health insurance, until the passage of the Philippine Mental Health Act in 2018.
"Mental health is still a clouded issue in many parts of the Philippines, so a hotline allows people to directly reach information and healthcare. The hotline and similar suicide prevention mechanisms are crucial. We must sustain our people's line to essential hope," Hontiveros said.