Pandemic year sees 57% rise in suicide rate in Philippines

Pandemic year sees 57% rise in suicide rate in Philippines
A health worker takes a break after visiting suspected COVID cases in Tondo, Manila.
Krizjohn Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — More people died by suicide last year as the pandemic began and dragged on, with the Philippine Statistics Authority reporting a 57% increase in the country’s suicide rate in 2020 compared to the preceding year.

The PSA said suicide is the 25th leading cause of death in 2020, up six notches from 31st place in 2019. It took the lives of 4,420 people last year, compared to 2,810 deaths in 2019.

Last year, the National Center for Mental Health said it saw a huge spike in the number of calls made to its hotlines since lockdowns were enforced in much of the country at the beginning of the pandemic in March.

From just 400 calls monthly, the NCMH said it received an average of over 700 calls per month from March to August 2020.

The NCMH reported the top reason for people reaching out to the center was anxiety-related concerns.

In response to reports that suicide cases are increasing, the government’s pandemic task force sought help from religious leaders to address this.

The Commission on Human Rights, however, said there is a need for the government to invest more in mental health amid the “major disruptions and alterations” being experienced by Filipinos due to the unprecedented health crisis. 

DOH: You are not alone

The Department of Health has acknowledged that the pandemic can affect mental health and has emphasized that those who feel sad or worried during the coronavirus pandemic are not alone.

"Okey lang na hindi ka okey. Hindi ka nag-iisa. May mga taong naandiyan para suportahan ka," it says on its FAQ on mental health.

(It is okay to not be okay. You are not alone. There are people who will support you)

DOH also suggests going on "brain breaks" like getting in touch with family or friends through text messaging, phone calls, or online chat. It says it is important to stay connected with others despite the restrictions on movement due to the pandemic.

"You can talk to them about what you are experiencing," the DOH said.

It also suggests exercise and doing things that make you happy or that relax you.

The department urges people seeking professional support to get in touch with the National Center for Mental Health hotlines at 0917-899-USAP (8727) or 899-USAP (8727); or its Mind Matters hotline at 09189424864— Xave Gregorio

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