Mental health issues among Filipinos on the rise: NCMH chief

Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 06 2023 12:58 PM

MANILA — “Levi,” not her real name, started battling mental health issues about 3 decades ago, when her boyfriend left her for another woman after years of promising marriage, while failing to give back around P250,000 that she loaned him. 

With medication and regular check-ups, Levi got better, went on to marry another man, and worked as a librarian. 

But the COVID-19 pandemic prevented her parents from picking her to get her monthly consultation and medicine supply in Bulacan. These days, a distracted Levi often fiddles with random items and walks around aimlessly, requiring her husband to keep an eye on her. 

“Hindi namin naibalik [sa doctor kasi] P3,500 per inject. Saan naman ako kukuha nun? ...Hindi ko siya puwedeng iwanan, ganoon lang. Kung saan sya, nakasubaybay lang ako kasi mahirap siyang iwanan ng mas malayo,” her husband said. 

(We couldn't get her back to the doctor because it would cost P3,500 per injection. Where will I get that money? I can leave her alone. I just watch over her because it's difficult when she strays far away.)


The National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) operates a 24/7 helpline for individuals suffering from mental health problems. 

“Crisis Hotline”
National Center for Mental Health 

Toll-free landline: 1553 
Mobile numbers: 0917-899-8727, 0966-351-4518, 0908-639-2672
Facebook: ncmhcrisishotline
Twitter: ncmhhotline 

Last year, the Crisis Hotline received a total of 1,895 calls for help, said NCMH Medical Center Chief II Dr. Noel Reyes. 

The youngest case referred to the NCMH was a 4-year-old. Majority or 794 of the cases were 17-year-olds, according to data that government-run mental health facility provided to ABS-CBN News. 

The top 5 reasons for calling the hotline included family problems, symptoms of anxiety or depression, the need to talk to someone, academic problems, and love or relationships. 

In the first 3 months of this year, the hotline responded to a higher than usual volume of calls, NCMH's Reyes said. 

The NCMH Crisis Hotline recorded 1,367 calls in January, 1,498 in February, and 1,462 in March, totaling 4,327.

Most or 2,783 of those who called during this period were female. A total of 2,583 belonged to the 18 to 30 age bracket, and the bulk of the calls came from Metro Manila and Calabarzon, NCMH said.

During the first 3 months of the year, reasons for reaching out to the hotline included requests for referral, work problems, inquiries on hospital services, and abuse and marital problems.

“Kung mga dati, binabalewala nila ang nararamdaman nila, ngayon they are seeking help. One evident statistics there is our 24/7 service hotline, our helpline and suicide prevention line,” Reyes said.

“We have seen quadruple increase in the number of calls. Also the age group that is calling -- we receive calls from 7-year-olds telling us about their problems in academics, online dahil nahihirapan din sila, and some of the parents who are calling in behalf of the child. I guess the awareness is increasing in terms of this mental health issues,” he added.

(They used to neglect their feelings, but people are now seeking help... We receive calls from 7-year-olds telling us about their problems in academics, their struggle with online learning.)

Reyes urged the public to seek immediate help if one notices sudden behavioral changes in others and be open to friends and loved ones' observations on one's own behavior.

“Ang ating adversity quotient ay mataas. Ang ating resiliency factor ay mataas. And based on the way that we were brought up, talagang matiisin tayo eh. Kinakaya natin. But of course, as a practicing doctor, I would suggest that if you feel that something is wrong, we better catch it initially, habang nagsisimula pa lang,” Reyes said. 

(Our quotient adversity and resiliency factor are high. We are used to holding out. We make do. But of course, as a practicing doctor, I would suggest that if you feel that something is wrong, we better catch it initially, while it's just starting.)

“Some of the mental health issue, you’re already so used to it. You already developed coping mechanism to combat it. And that‘s why you are reluctant to seek help because kinakaya mo na lang (you are getting by). But of course, in any other illness, there will come a time that you will succumb to the illness. And we hope we can catch it before it can cause you any more harm,” he added. 


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