CHR wants greater attention, budget for mental health amid pandemic
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has called on the government to give greater attention and funding to address mental health issues in this time of a pandemic.
In its message for the National Mental Health Week, CHR said the lockdown and stay-at-home policies due to the health crisis gave way to the rise in mental health problems.
The National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) in September cited the growing anxiety and feelings of sadness among the populace due to uncertainties caused by COVID-19.
CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia noted NCMH’s data, which shows that the average number of calls on its hotlines swelled to 400 during the lockdown from 80 during the pre-pandemic period.
“As we observe the counterpart National Mental Health Week here in the Philippines, let us join together in calling for greater investment in mental health so everyone can have access to psychosocial support and services regardless of location and socio-economic situation,” De Guia said in a statement.
“The consequences of the pandemic on the mental health of the citizens, particularly the vulnerable sectors, necessitate that mental health becomes an integral part of the universal health coverage,” she added.
According to CHR, they understand that the government has already made moves to ensure the good mental health of Filipinos but that wider coverage is still needed to avoid emergency cases.
Also, the commission noted that many people without mental health issues before the pandemic may have developed some conditions due to the environment and situation brought by the COVID-19 crisis.
“Philippines has the longest uninterrupted quarantine and is now among the top 20 countries with the most number of COVID-19 cases. This has a huge toll on the current mental health state of the people. Medical workers are facing unprecedented challenges in providing healthcare while facing risk and fearful of bringing the virus home,” De Guia explained.
“Many of those who lost their loved ones did not have the chance to say goodbye, which heightens their sorrow. Thousands have lost their jobs and are beset with uncertainty. The youth are grappling with long distance learning and are unable to have normal social interaction in their crucial development years. Those with mental health conditions are even more vulnerable due to quarantine restrictions,” she likewise said.
Various organizations, including the World Health Organization, have stressed that the pandemic has taken a toll on mental health as restrictions prevent people from doing their usual routine, which is important to people with mental health conditions.
In the Philippines, groups have warned of a possible spike in domestic abuse. Groups also cautioned that the lack of access to available modes of education during the pandemic could bring about an increase in suicide incidents.
“To truly cultivate mental health, it must become a way of life. A proactive approach to overall wellness, such as building a culture that promotes mental wellness and mainstreaming difficult conversations related to mental health, is vital. On the individual level, developing habits that strengthen mental fortitude can prepare one for inevitable adversities of life,” De Guia pointed out.
“As we continue to grapple with Covid-19 and embark into the new normal, let us harness our Filipino sense of togetherness, be generous with our presence, and always respond with compassion to gradually revive optimism and hope especially among those who suffer most,” she added.
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