Growing anxiety: Calls to National Center for Mental Health double since start of pandemic

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 26 2020 02:21 PM | Updated as of Aug 26 2020 02:24 PM

MANILA — Calls seeking help for mental health doubled since the start of the pandemic, the health department said Wednesday.

From just 400 monthly calls before the pandemic, the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) is now receiving an average of 876 calls a month, said Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.

The peak was in June 2020 with 1,115 calls, she added. 

“For August 2020 the top reason for calling was anxiety-related due to the pandemic,” the health official said.

Vergeire assured the public that the people receiving the calls for NCMH’s hotline are trained to assess if the caller would need to be referred to a facility.

NCMH data show that there are more female callers than male and that the biggest age group calling was those 18 to 30 years old.

More than half of their monthly callers come from the National Capital Region, the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis, while more than 20% come from Region IV-A.

Now, there is also an average of 53 suicide-related calls on the crisis hotline, Vergeire said. 

This is slightly higher than the running average of 45 suicide-related calls per month reported by the NCMH in June. 

NCMH reported a peak of suicide-related calls in July with 115 calls, she added. 

However, she said that many were repeat calls or from previous callers.

Asked about how many suicide cases there were during the past months, Vergeire said they have yet to receive complete data since those will come from local units. 

MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES

Since last year, the NCMH has provided 9,494 Filipinos with mental health services as of August 15.

Vergeire earlier said that people should not be ashamed of seeking mental health services, especially with hotlines that are free.

Those who need mental health support and assistance may call the NCMH Crisis Hotline at:

1) 0917-899-USAP (8727)
2) (02) 7-989-USAP
3) 1553 (landline-landline, toll-free)

The following article also has information on other groups offering free mental health consultations online or via phone: