BFP launches hotline for mental health concerns
09624584-BFP / 0962 4584 237

BFP teams up with NCMH, launches mental health hotline

/ 04:06 PM May 27, 2024

 BFP, NCMH launch mental health hotline MANILA, Philippines—The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), in partnership with the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH), has launched a hotline to be pilot tested in Metro Manila for individuals with mental health concerns.

After program launch at the BFP Central Office in Quezon City on Monday, Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. said the BFP thought of this initiative because it receives a lot of calls about self-harm attempts, noting that it might be better to prevent these incidents rather than merely respond to them.

The BFP hotline, which offers counseling 24/7, is 09624584-BFP or 0962 4584 237.


“This is for everyone, actually this is a joint project of the BFP, because when there are calls to respond to suicide attempts, the BFP is always being deployed because they’ve got the manpower, skills training, apparatus, know-how on rappelling, ladders, et cetera.  So we think it’s better to have an ounce of prevention than a pound of cure,” Abalos said in a press conference.


“Instead of that, let’s go to the root of the problem.  And it’s good that we have this program of the [NCMH], that they had an agreement on this,” he added.

Abalos also stressed that the program would be about saving lives and safeguarding people before a threat arises.

“Often times, you are called to respond when somebody is on the verge of jumping from a building […] But on this day, you would not only save lives, but it is also about prevention, you would not wait for the situation to escalate before you save lives.  You’ll save them even when an incident is still far from happening,” he said.

Abalos said consultations with health experts revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic actually increased mental health concerns due to the isolation policies placed to curb the spread of the disease.

“Mental health is an urgent issue in the country.  According to the DOH (Department of Health), around 3.6 million Filipinos suffer from mental health, neurological and substance use disorders.  I talked to Dr. Bernard Agramosa […] I asked him, ‘what is the reason, are there many sick with mental illnesses?’  He told me, ‘sir, since the pandemic, it increased,’” Abalos said.

Fire S/Insp. Marites Geronimo, chief of the BFP-National Capital Region’s Health Services, explained to that 40 BFP personnel have undergone a 10-day training with the NCMH for the hotline program.


Geronimo said the personnel would do 12-hour shifts once every 10 days to ensure that the welfare of BFP personnel would also be considered, as they may listen to depressing episodes of different individuals.

According to her, BFP intends to expand the program, covering the entire nation.

Social media as culprit?

Abalos’ speech also touched on possible causes of the rise in depression cases, aside from the pandemic. 

The DILG chief asked if smartphones — particularly the accessibility of social media to young people — can cause depression.

“Second question: What reason did you get?  Sabi niya (Agramosa) ‘there are many causes, it can be because of family problems, work problems’.  Then I also asked him, does this have an effect?” Abalos asked, waving his smartphone.

“Because now, children use this — when I was young, because now I am old […] but during our time we would lean on to friends, if we have problems, our friends would call us to bond and discuss things.  But now, look at children, you can give these (smartphones) to children, he can sit down all day and use these, Facebook, Twitter, all of it,” he added.

According to Abalos, the lack of communication among young people these days has led to bottled-up feelings that have to be released. 

“It goes without saying, talk to them, offer them food, but they do not want to eat.  Many are like that.  So we lack communication,” he said.

“And most of the time if you can see, our project deals with someone who has a problem, who needs someone to talk to.  They have to unload the problem.  Why do I say this?  Because to solve a problem, we must learn the dynamics of a problem first.  We must dissect the problem, and these are the factors of this problem,” he added.

Aside from the problem of mental health, one cause for concern among healthcare experts is the lack of channels to address it.  There were observations that the number given by Abalos from DOH could be higher since Filipinos do not often seek help due to economic and social barriers.

According to the World Health Organization, the Philippines has the third highest rate of mental health problems in the Western Pacific Region and that mental, neurological, and substance use illness is the third most common disability in the Philippines.

Several lawmakers have already raised concerns about the issue. 

In 2023, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian warned the government about the high rate of suicide cases in the country, purportedly brought about by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Filipinos.

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Gatchalian lamented that both the DOH and the NCMH were not exerting enough effort to address a looming mental health pandemic.

TAGS: BFP, mental health

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