Depression on the rise due to ECQ
Cortez said the hospital has recorded 60 employees infected with COVID-19, of whom 11 have recovered. And of 16 patients of NCMH who tested positive for the coronavirus, one recovered.
STAR/Miguel De Guzman, file
Depression on the rise due to ECQ
Büm D. Tenorio Jr. (The Philippine Star) - April 29, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Expect the number of individuals with depression to rise in the country following the prolonged lockdown.

“Mood disorder, as prime characteristic of depression, is on the rise. Many people feel sad and slowly lose interest in life because of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) caused by COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Roland Cortez, chief of the National Center for Mental Health during a Zoom press conference yesterday.

Every day, Cortez said, about 200 people call the 24-hour hotline numbers (0917-899-8727, 0917-989-872 and 989-8727) of the hospital ever since the ECQ took effect in Luzon last month.

Last year, the hospital recorded depression as the third leading cause of consultation with the NCMH with a total of 637 patients. Schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder came first and second with 2,552 and 1,322 patients respectively.

With the pandemic, Cortez said the hospital now only admits patients who are suicidal or who have the capacity to hurt others.

Cortez said the hospital has recorded 60 employees infected with COVID-19, of whom 11 have recovered. And of 16 patients of NCMH who tested positive for the coronavirus, one recovered.

Pavilion 7 of the hospital with a 100-bed capacity has been turned into an isolation center where COVID patients are being treated.

“Depression is on the rise because of the feeling of uncertainty. Those who are affected by it are asking: When will I go back to work? Do I still have work after the ECQ? How do I feed my family? When will we stop depending on government aid? When will COVID-19 be totally eradicated?” said Cortez.

“Anxiety and nervousness are common” among those who are locked down in their houses. “They always worry about their finances. They feel uneasy inside their houses. They are uncertain of the future,” he added.

To combat the feeling of being depressed, Cortez suggested that “the government must have clear guidelines on how to help the people.”

“They must feel and be reassured that after the lockdown they will still have a job. Because for many, they feel that it is already the end of the world,” he said.

Cortez said kids and senior citizens are also emotionally affected by the lockdown.

“Parents should reassure their kids that the ECQ is temporary; that when it is lifted, they can play again outside the house or with their friends,” he said.

Senior citizens, Cortez said, also feel the depression of being locked down. “They should exercise by walking around the house. Or even simple flexing (of arms and legs).

“The senior citizens also have feelings; they get depressed. They silently absorb the feelings of their children or grandchildren who lose their jobs. Cheer them up with good news. If they can also connect with their friends and relatives via social media, that will do them good,” said Cortez.

He advised everyone under lockdown to tap the artist in him or her.

“In this time of the pandemic, we should learn new skills, learn art. Indulge in poetry, painting or learn to play an instrument. We have to be creative,” Cortez said.

“We keep being sane by taking a break from listening to bad news or reading too much about the pandemic. Let’s listen to our favorite music or watch feel-good movies. We can clean the house or read inspiring books,” he added.

To keep sane during the lockdown, Cortez also suggested people meditate or practice mindfulness, to eat healthy and live a healthy lifestyle.

“Get an eight-hour sleep daily. It’s not good to be sleeping always. Drink at least eight glasses of water. Exercise regularly. Don’t forget the benefit of taking a deep breath from time to time. Avoid alcohol, smoking and drugs – they weaken the lungs. And pray,” he said.

ROLAND CORTEZ
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