NCMH reports spike in suicide-related calls amid COVID-19 pandemic
MANILA, Philippines — Aside from putting too much pressure on the country’s healthcare system, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is also taking its toll on Filipinos’ mental health with the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) reporting a spike in the number of suicide-related calls received by its mental health crisis hotline.
An NCMH report released by the Department of Health (DOH) Wednesday showed that it has observed average monthly suicide-related calls of 53 as of August 15.
From an average of 33 monthly calls from January to March 2020, the number of suicide-related calls doubled to 66 in April and reached 80 in May, 112 in June, and 115 in July.
As of August 15, the NCMH has already received 49 suicide-related calls.
The government earlier urged spiritual leaders to help address a rising number of suicide cases due to retrenchment and job loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ongoing pandemic has forced the government to implement one of the world’s longest lockdowns which started in mid-March particularly in Metro Manila, the country’s economic center, and its nearby provinces— causing businesses to either layoff workers or declare closure.
The NCMH also reported an increase in the volume of the total number of calls received during the months of April, May, June, and July 2020.
From May 2019 to February 2020, there are 400 average monthly total calls to the NCMH’s mental health crisis hotline. This number more than doubled to 876 average calls from March 2020 to August 2020.
From 672 calls in March, the number of total calls increased to 1,104 in April, 1,083 in May, 1,115 in June, and 1,034 in July. Meanwhile, 440 calls have so far been recorded as of mid-August.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire noted that not all who called NCMH were new as most were “returning callers” who were exacerbated by the pandemic.
“Ang mga tawag na ito ay binibilang natin per call, not per individual,” Vergeire explained.
(This is being counted per call, not per individual.)
Among the callers’ top reasons for calling are anxiety-related concerns, asking for a referral to a psychiatrist/psychologist, inquiry regarding hospital services, and the need to talk to someone.
The DOH, through the NCMH, has activated a team of responders composed of doctors, psychologists, and nurses to man its 24/7 crisis hotline to provide health and psychological support to the Filipinos amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NCMH crisis hotline may be reached through 0917-899-USAP (8727); (02) 7-989-USAP; or 1553 (landline-landline, toll-free) [ac]
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