Lawmaker sounds alarm on rising suicide cases, hopelessness | Inquirer News

Lawmaker sounds alarm on rising suicide cases, hopelessness

By: - Reporter / @BPinlacINQ
/ 04:06 PM May 09, 2023

Sad depressed young teenage girl sitting by wall

MANILA, Philippines — “The pandemic of mental health is already here,” Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said Tuesday as he expressed concern over the rise in suicide cases, which is much more than the number of suicide-related calls received by the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“In the data, more people are taking their own lives than those who are calling. That’s scary because people are now hopeless. They don’t find any use to call the hotline,” he said during the Senate health and demography committee’s hearing on updates on the implementation of the Mental Health Act. 


Citing data from the Department of Health (DOH), Gatchalian said the NCMH in 2019 received 3,125 calls, and 712 of those aired out concerns related to suicide. 


He placed this data against the backdrop of around 2,800 recorded suicides by the Philippine Statistics Authority. 

Gatchalian noted that the number of calls to NCMH nearly tripled to 11,017 the next year. Some 2,841 of those were suicide-related.  

“Unfortunately, the number of suicides also doubled from 2,800 to 4,400,” he said. 

In 2021, Gatchalian said, the NCMH received 14,897 calls – 5,167 of which were made on suicide. 

However, this differs from 2021 figures shared by NCMH Medical Center Chief II Noel Reyes earlier in the hearing. 

Reyes said the NCMH received 21,468 calls in its mental health hotline, with some 7,600 related to suicide.


He said most of the phone calls were from persons between the ages of 18 and 30, while around 4,800 were below 17 years old.

Regardless of the discrepancies in the number of phone calls, Gatchalian stressed: “We are already in a pandemic of mental health. We should already sound the alarm bells. I think no amount of numbers should scare us because we’re already in the danger zone when it comes to mental health.” 

Gatchalian lamented the government’s seeming inaction in addressing the country’s mental health crisis but hailed the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) “game-changing” albeit belated move to offer a mental health package. 

 Mental health data

Gatchalian sought specific details from the DOH, like demographics and causes that pushed thousands of Filipinos to commit suicide in 2020. 

“Have you analyzed one by one as mental health professionals, or are they just treated as numbers?” he asked.

DOH director Dr. Razel Nikka Hao said they only have aggregate data.

But she took note of common causes derived from the suicide-related calls received by the NCMH, which include anxiety and relationship problems, among others. 

Hao also said they consider these causes when creating suicide prevention initiatives. 

 “I think you should start analyzing data. You guys are supposedly mental health experts. We cannot just treat mental health with hotlines and training. We have to look at each case and see what intervention programs can we deliver. Because what I’m getting at right now – we’re treating everything wholesale.” 

World Association for Psychosocial Rehabilitation President Lucita Lazo later backed Gatchalian’s call to boost mental health research in the country.

“We need more mental health intelligence, which means analyzing data. Because data is not just numbers. Their meanings will have to be extracted based on our analysis. I think we need support in that. That’s very basic – before we can formulate solutions,” she said. 

If you or someone you know needs help, the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) crisis hotlines can be reached at 1553 (Luzon-wide landline toll free), 0917-899-USAP (8727), 0966-351-4518, and 0908-639-2672. (

You may also call Hopeline PH: 0917-5584673, 0918-8734673, 88044673 or visit and its Facebook account: Hopeline PH


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If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, please reach out to the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH). Their crisis hotlines are available at 1553 (Luzon-wide landline toll-free), 0917-899-USAP (8727), 0966-351-4518, and 0908-639-2672. For more information, visit their website: (

Alternatively, you can contact Hopeline PH at the following numbers: 0917-5584673, 0918-8734673, 88044673. Additional resources are available at, or connect with them on Facebook at Hopeline PH.

TAGS: mental health, NCMH, Sherwin Gatchalian, Suicide

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