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Mental health hotline: From 80 monthly calls to 400 nearly 400

Cecille Suerte Felipe - The Philippine Star
Mental health hotline: From 80 monthly calls to 400 nearly 400
From only 60 to 80 calls per month before the community quarantine began in March, the National Center for Mental Health hotline now receives 300 to 400 calls from persons claiming to be suffering from anxiety, depression and other mental conditions since the lockdown was imposed, an NCMH official said yesterday.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) seems to be taking its toll not just on the physical health of Filipinos but also on their mental health.

From only 60 to 80 calls per month before the community quarantine began in March, the National Center for Mental Health hotline now receives 300 to 400 calls from persons claiming to be suffering from anxiety, depression and other mental conditions since the lockdown was imposed, an NCMH official said yesterday.

Rolando Cortez, NCMH director, pointed out that the center used to receive only two to three calls per day before COVID-19 but is now bombarded with 10 to 13 calls each day.

“We have a crisis hotline open 24/7. (Hotlines) 0917 899 8727 (USAP) and 989 8727 (USAP) operating 24/7 actually were being bombarded with calls from a mere 60 to 80 calls before the COVID issue,” Cortez told senators at yesterday’s virtual public hearing conducted by the Senate committee on health chaired by Sen. Bong Go.

He noted that there are a lot of people wanting to communicate with experts through the crisis hotline and that these cases involved anxiety and depression related to the lockdown.

Go presided over the online public hearing of Senate Bill 1471, which seeks to amend some provisions of Republic Act 11036 or the Mental Health Act filed by Sen. Sonny Angara.

In his explanatory note, Go said the Mental Health Act is in response to the World Health Organization (WHO) study which revealed that the Philippines has the highest incidence of depression among Southeast Asian countries.

Angara pointed out that the law was supported by a 2004 Department of Health (DOH) survey saying that almost one in every 100 households has a member with a mental disorder.

Since its enactment, he said the law was able to bolster the country’s stance on improving the mental health of every Filipino by ensuring access to mental health services and interventions from regional, provincial and tertiary hospitals down to the barangay level and protecting the patients’ rights.

“And while we remain optimistic that this law will continue to address the growing needs of those who seek help, the law must also be strengthened, particularly for our workers in both the public and private sectors,” said Angara.

For employees, he noted that a big factor of stress comes from work – the long hours of commuting to and from the workplace, the lack of work/life balance, the excessive demands of their jobs or the less than competitive salary.

He added that Filipino workers are constantly being subjected to stress, which experts said could lead to several mental health problems like depression or even dementia.

While RA 11036 has made it easier for workers to seek help, Angara noted that the financial burden of these services can still be challenging to some since PhilHealth has yet to increase its benefit package of P7,800 for mental and behavioral disorders.

“While we believe that true healing can only be acquired through professional medical help, reinforcing the rights of employees in terms of monetary compensation can help alleviate his/her burden,” Angara said.

NCMH
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