At least 3.6 million Filipinos battling mental health issues amid pandemic: DOH

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 19 2021 07:06 PM

At least 3.6 million Filipinos battling mental health issues amid pandemic: DOH 1
People visit stalls in Divisoria in Manila on March 20, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - At least 3.6 million Filipinos are battling mental health issues as the Philippines continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Health (DOH) said Wednesday.

About 1.14 million Filipinos have depression, 847,000 are battling alcohol-use disorders, while 520,000 others were diagnosed with bipolar disorder, said Frances Prescilla Cuevas, chief health program officer of the DOH's Disease Prevention and Control Bureau.

"This is an understatement. This is a figure na underreported because it only tackles a few of the conditions," she said.

"Ang ibig lang sabihin niyan ay mas marami pa tayong makikita [cases] if we have more data," she said.

(It only means that we will find more cases if we have more data.)

The quality of living during the pandemic "has a great impact on the psychological issues" that affect a person's mental state, Cuevas said.

"We are in the same storm, but we are not on the same boat," she said.

"'Yung iba, stable masyado ang kanilang pamumuhay ngunit yung iba ay talaga namang hirap na hirap sa pandemic," she said.

Contracting COVID-19 also affects a person's mental health as a DOH study showed that 1 in every 3 COVID-19 patients was diagnosed with neuropsychiatric condition 6 months after being infected with the disease, Cuevas said.

"The coronavirus pandemic is inducing a considerable degree of fear, worry and concern," she said.

"Psychological impact includes elevated rates of stress or anxiety... Marami po sa mga (There are a lot of) adult Filipinos are highly stressed," she said.

The government has been providing cash aid and food packages to indigent families to ensure that Filipinos would not have to worry about survival during the pandemic, Cuevas said.

"Isa yan sa mga pinakamalaking binigay na security o binigay na serbisyo ng gobyerno," she said.

(That is one of the biggest services the government is doing to provide security.)

Several crisis hotlines have also been launched to help those who have mental health issues, she said. 

In April, the hotline received 1,805 calls, which is 200 calls higher than the 1,604 calls recorded in March, according to data from the DOH.

"Around 31 percent [of calls in April] are about anxiety and depressive symptoms, and 22 percent referrals to psychiatrists and psychologists," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in an earlier interview.

Between January and February, the same mental health crisis hotline has registered a monthly average of 289 suicide-related calls, the DOH said.

The NCMH hotline can be reached through the following numbers:

▪ 1553 (Luzon-wide landline toll-free)

GLOBE / TM Subscribers
▪ 0917-899-8727
▪ 0966-351-4518

SMART / SUN / TNT Subscribers
▪ 0908-639-2672

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) earlier said it would conduct a separate survey on impact of COVID-19 to mental health.

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Editor's note:
A group in the Philippines is dedicated to addressing those who have suicidal tendencies.

The crisis hotlines of the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation aim to make these individuals feel that someone is ready to listen to them.

These are their hotline numbers:
Information and Crisis Intervention Center (02) 804-HOPE (4673) 0917-558-HOPE (4673) or (632) 211-4550 0917-852-HOPE (4673) or (632) 964-6876 0917-842-HOPE (4673) or (632) 964-4084
In Touch Crisis Lines: 0917-572-HOPE or (632) 211-1305 (02) 893-7606 (24/7) (02) 893-7603 (Mon-Fri, 9 am-5 pm) Globe (63917) 800.1123 or (632) 506.7314 Sun (63922) 893.8944 or (632) 346.8776