WHO: A little compassion can prevent suicides
To curb the rising prevalence of suicide in the Philippines, the World Health Organization urged Filipinos to be compassionate and listen to a person suffering from depression.
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WHO: A little compassion can prevent suicides
Mayen Jaymalin (The Philippine Star) - September 11, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Simply listen and save lives.

To curb the rising prevalence of suicide in the Philippines, the World Health Organization (WHO) urged Filipinos to be compassionate and listen to a person suffering from depression.

“With compassion and understanding for others, we can recognize the signs and educate ourselves on how to access help. We all have a critical role in preventing suicide,” WHO country representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe said.

To commemorate World Suicide Prevention Day yesterday, the WHO and the Department of Health (DOH) jointly raised awareness on the importance of public mental health amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Abeyasinghe said many Filipinos are experiencing stress brought about by the pandemic.

“This continues to be an especially stressful time. Someone in your community, workplace, family or circle of friends or even you may be feeling hopeless, isolated and feeling they have no reason to live,” the WHO official said.

Abeyansinghe said one can help prevent suicide by making a person suffering from depression feel that they are not alone simply by just lending an ear.

“Show them that you are listening by repeating information they have shared with you. Reassure them, they will not feel this way forever,” he said. “Be non-judgmental. Don’t criticize or blame them.”

He called on every Filipino to socially connect with affected people or refer them to mental health services or medical care.

Since the onset of the pandemic, the National Center for Mental Health has recorded a significant increase in the monthly hotline calls, from 80 to 400, regarding depression and possible suicide.

The NCMH reported that from January to March 2020, the average monthly number of calls was 33, which doubled to 66 in April, a month after implementation of lockdown measures.

The number of suicide-related calls continued surging last May when it reached 80, 112 in June, and 115 in July. As of Aug. 15, the NCMH already received 49 suicide-related calls.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Filipinos mostly do not feel comfortable sharing their mental health problems for fear of alienation or prejudice.

Duque said that mental health initiatives are needed to help Filipinos with mental health condition.

“Now more than ever, we need to promote holistic health, where we are caring for the body, mind and even the spirit,” Duque pointed out.

The DOH has launched a multi-sectoral approach for mental health, including the NCMH crisis hotline.

Raise awareness on suicide prevention – senator

Amid the observance of World Suicide Prevention Day, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian is urging schools to raise awareness on suicide prevention as the COVID-19 pandemic makes learners more vulnerable to stress, anxiety and other mental health conditions.

Gatchalian pointed out that it is important that mental health and psychosocial support programs train both teachers and learners on identifying behaviors linked to suicide so these can be addressed or reported to the proper authorities.

Aside from capacitating teachers on the provision of psychosocial first aid and having regular counseling sessions, Gatchalian stressed that learners should be empowered to support each other through peer counseling programs.

“Part of our fight against COVID-19 is to take care not only of the physical body but also of the mental health of our young people, especially fear and uncertainty about the welfare of their families, as well as in matters of education. The role of our schools is to provide understanding and support to our youth so that they do not lose hope,” said Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate committee on basic education, arts and culture.

Last year, the University of the Philippines College of Medicine professor emeritus Dr. Cornelio Banaag Jr., considered the father of child psychiatry in the Philippines, warned that young Filipinos are in the midst of a mental health crisis, which he linked to increased smartphone use and time spent online.

According to the WHO’s 2015 Global School-based Student Health Survey where 8,761 students participated, 16.8 percent of students in the Philippines aged 13-17 attempted suicide one or more times in the 12 months prior to the survey. Nearly 12 percent also seriously considered attempting suicide.

To date, there is one documented case of a learner who died of suicide because of the negative effects of COVID-19, according to the Department of Education.

As young Filipinos experience uncertainties because of job losses in their families and the shift to distance learning, Gatchalian reiterated that giving psychosocial support to learners is more urgent than ever to prevent any more loss of life. – Cecille Suerte Felipe

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