Gov’t warned of onset of ‘mental health pandemic’ | Inquirer News
COVID-19 aftermath

Gov’t warned of onset of ‘mental health pandemic’

/ 05:05 AM May 10, 2023

‘Pig pen’ conditions at NCMH mirror state of PH mental health care


Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian on Tuesday voiced his concern over the high rate of suicide cases in the country, purportedly brought about by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Filipinos.

Gatchalian lamented that the government, through the Department of Health (DOH) and the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH), was not doing enough to address what he termed “the pandemic of mental health” that has struck the country.


“Are you not alarmed? I am very alarmed by this because COVID-19 created a lot of damage not only to our economy but also to our mental well-being, and the question is, what are we doing?” he told health officials led by Assistant Secretary Gloria Balboa, head of the DOH Field Implementation and Coordination Team.


“The mental health pandemic is already here in our country,” Gatchalian warned.

The senator made the statement as the Senate panel tackled updates on the implementation of the Republic Act No. 11036, or the Mental Health Act.

At the hearing, Gatchalian took to task to the DOH for their supposed lack of intervention to address the rising cases of suicide over the last three years since 2019.

Citing Philippine Statistics Authority data, the senator noted that in 2019, a total of 2,810 cases were reported, which grew to 4,420 cases in 2020.

“Just because of the pandemic, the suicide cases went up twice while the amount of calls is only 2,800. So what are we doing?” he asked.

On the other hand, the DOH hotline received 712 suicide calls in 2019; 2,821 or three times more in 2020 and 5,167 calls in 2021, according to Gatchalian.“While it appears that many people were calling your hotline, data shows that there were more people who were committing suicide than those calling [the DOH help desk],” he said.



The senator was dismayed by the admission of Dr. Razel Nikka Hao that the agency had not studied the background of each of the suicide cases.

“[Suicide] involves [the loss of] life, so they should be looked at one by one for you to come up with interventions,” he said.

Gatchalian is worried that while the DOH’s presentation of its programs has been “impressive,” the agency is trying to apply a wholesale approach to address the problems.

“We should just not be happy that many people are calling our hotline and we are not doing anything about it,” he said.

In response, Hao, the director of the DOH Disease Prevention and Control Bureau, said the agency was in the process of developing other platforms to reach more people.She disclosed that based on data gathered from the hotline, most causes cited in suicide-related calls were anxiety, love relationship problems, medical concerns, loneliness and job-related problems. INQ

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Center for Mental Health hotline at 0917-899-USAP (8727); (02) 7-989-USAP; or 1553 (landline to landline, toll-free).


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Lawmaker sounds alarm on rising suicide cases, hopelessness

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: Health, mental health, pandemic, Suicide

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