Amid lockdown, NCMH crisis hotline ‘bombarded’ with calls for help
MANILA, Philippines — More Filipinos are now suffering from anxiety and depression since the government started enforcing lockdowns to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), according to National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) director Dr. Roland Cortez.
During the Senate health committee hearing on Thursday, Cortez told senators that the NCMH’s crisis hotline is being “bombarded” with calls since restrictions were enforced in March.
“When we did the lockdown…the National Center for Mental Health last March, we noticed…was actually being bombarded with calls,” he said.
According to Cortez, the NCMH’s crisis hotline usually receives 60 to 80 calls before the coronavirus pandemic.
“When we started to have this lockdown, we have almost 300 to 400 calls per month,” he said.
“Meaning to say, there are a lot of people wanting to communicate with the experts that we place in the crisis hotline that actually was mostly due to anxiety and depression because of the quarantine, lockdown that is going on,” he added.
Cortez also mentioned that the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) as well as other government agencies have asked for the assistance of the NCMH.
“We are in support of our agencies also, like the OWWA, where our teams are being called to evaluate our OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) who are experiencing some degree of problems mentally,” the NCMH chief said.
“Our teams are actually there to support all these agencies that reached our interventions and evaluations, so we can safely say based on our existing data that there are a lot of problems that are being experienced by our people due to this lockdown,” he added.
Earlier, international groups and institutions such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States have recognized that the pandemic not only affects an individual’s physical state but also their mental well-being.
In an April interview with INQUIRER.net, Dr. Rowalt Alibudbud, a psychiatrist for a non-government organization based in Makati City and a faculty member of De La Salle University, said there have been previous studies which delved on the links between mental health and epidemics—particularly on measures in response to health emergencies like quarantine and isolation.
“What they found out is that the longer you stay in quarantine, it could lead to more fears. There is also inadequate supply and information that could lead to stress,” he said.
“A lot of my patients are contacting me because, for one, it is hard to get medication. Secondly, they feel suffocated inside their rooms. They feel bored which is related to possible triggers to a mental health disorder,” he added.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.