CBCP head asks Church to address mental health issues during pandemic amid suicide reports
MANILA, Philippines—The leader of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) asked the Church leadership to look into the condition of priests amid reports of cases of suicide involving them.
Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, acting CBCP president, said some priests and other leaders of the Church might be suffering from mental health issues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
David on Tuesday (Sept. 15) asked priests and bishops nationwide to help their fellow Church leaders and workers to prevent depression and loneliness likely brought about by the pandemic.
“I am also calling on my brother bishops to assist our priests, especially during the pandemic,” David said in an interview with Church-run Radio Veritas.
Reaching out to members of the Church can be done through creative means, technology and social media, he said.
David’s statement came after reports of suicide by some Church leaders in Calapan, Mindoro and Antipolo, Rizal.
Last Sept. 10, a priest in the diocese of Antipolo was found dead with a gunshot wound in his room inside the St John the Baptist Church in Taytay, Rizal. Police are investigating if it was a case of murder or suicide.
Another priest, from Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro, was found dead hanging from a church beam, according to local police reports.
David, in the same radio interview, said priests are not immune from suffering sorrow and grief and also struggle with mental health issues due to anxiety and trauma.
Others, he said, feel guilt, shortcomings and sadness if unable to perform their pastoral duties because of the pandemic. Church activity is still limited during general community quarantine (GCQ), a looser form of lockdown, with Masses still not allowed.
Fr Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of CBCP’s public affairs committee, advised people to be more discerning and not oblivious to signs of suicide.
“If they have suicidal tendencies, they should not leave the person behind,” Secillano said. “Always talk to the person. Ask the person directly what his concerns are. A lot of these people need to be listened to. First is listening, then attending to their needs and paying close attention,” he said.
Secillano also advised families to show love to those who grieve and are depressed.
“Sometimes, we can only bear so much with the situation and we are in need of support from other people,” he said. “Knowing we have people around us, consoling us, offering us hope and support, I think that will do a lot for the person with suicidal tendencies,” he added.
For families who lost loved ones to suicide, Secillano said the key is acceptance.
“Of course, they can no longer do something about that,” he said.
“The last part of the process is acceptance. Before acceptance, it’s accepting the circumstances. It may be difficult for them to understand what really went through but at the end of the day, they should not blame themselves, feel guilty that they did not do something about the situation, but (understand) there are circumstances that are beyond our control,” he said.
“We can only do so much. That’s why each and everyday of our lives, we need to pay attention to what is going on. We cannot just snub all these occurrences in our lives and not pay attention to them. We have to be more attentive and sensitive,” he added.
This September is national suicide prevention month.
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