DOH opens 'Hopeline Project' to prevent suicides
(Philstar.com) - September 13, 2016 - 6:29pm

MANILA,  Philippines (Philippines News Agency) — The Department of Health (DOH) officially opened on Tuesday the “Hopeline Project” which aims to strengthen its campaign to prevent the occurrence of suicides in the country.

READ: WHO: Someone commits suicide every 40 seconds

"Hopeline" is a phone-based counseling service available 24/7 to individuals who suffer from crisis situations and depression.

Health Secretary Paulyn Jean B. Rosell-Ubial said that the launching of the project was in collaboration with Natasha Goulbourn Foundation (NGF) and Globe Communications.

Also present in the launch was the World Health Organization (WHO) country director in the Philippines, Dr. Gundo Weiler.

The launching was done at the DOH media relations unit in Tayuman, Sta. Cruz, Manila, as one of the highlights of the observance of the 2016 World Suicide Prevention.

September 10 is celebrated worldwide as Suicide Prevention Day.

Ubial said the project is a part of the initiative of the DOH to bridge the gap in the mental health services in the country in line with the tagline “Health for All” aiming for better health outcome for every Filipino.

She added that with the partnership of NGF and Globe, the Hopeline project that was started in Cebu by NGF will now be expanded in the country and will benefit those with suicidal tendencies.

She said the DOH-National Capital Region (NCR) Regional Office and the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) are behind the tie-up as they strengthened emphasis on enhancing the mental health program as desired by the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Under the said partnership, the NCMH under the DOH, will provide the training of psychiatrists and psychologists who are tasked to answer the telephone calls.

Aside from providing personnel for the training, the DOH will also give the necessary equipment.

Globe Communications, on the other hand, will provide the technology behind the crisis hotline.

“I am pleased to present the country’s national suicide hotline to our fellow Filipinos. Finally, there’s a hotline for us to call when we are having psychological and emotional issues. We are very optimistic that we can fully implement Hopeline and address mental health issues in a very innovative way," Ubial said.

She said that the project will give emphasis on three C's - Connect, Communicate and Care - which is also the theme for the 2016 World Suicide Prevention Day.

“These are the three words at the heart of suicide prevention,” the health chief said.

The numbers to call are the following: (02) 805-HOPE (4673); 0917 558 HOPE (4673) and 2919.

These numbers are toll-free for GLOBE and TM subscribers.

“Spread the word, spread the number…Let us help families and friends who suffer from depression to reach out to our health professionals through the hotline,” Ubial said as she assured that calls will be confidential and will be ran by professionals.

According to her, the profiles of the callers and people who need the help are also recorded so they can develop programs. 

She said that callers can also connect to national assistance number of 8888 which will then channel the calls to Hopeline.

Based on the estimate of the WHO, about 800,000 people die by suicide globally each year.

“That’s one person every 40 seconds,” the health chief said.

The estimated number of suicides in the country in 2012 was 2,558 (550 females, 2008 males) or a suicide rate of 2.9 per 100,000 population.

The country, however, has the lowest rank in the suicide rates in comparison with other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states.

The Philippines ranks 150 out of 170 countries in terms of suicide rates, according to the WHO report.

“This is quite a good news. However every single suicide is still a tragedy,” said Weiler.

He added that it is important to understand that people coming into suicidal situation is something not to be ashamed about and be isolated but instead be given care and support.

Since there is a stigma or taboo attached to mental health in the country, the way that people seeking ways to prevent suicide needs lots of help wherein the said Hopeline can help or deal with the issue.

Jean Goulbourn, president of NGF, said that the youngest caller so far was seven years old and the youngest suicide they had known was 10 years old.

Goulbourn also recalled that in Cebu last March, there were three cousins aged 10 years who hanged themselves.

In line with this, she said they have developed modules for school children and also coordinated with the Department of Education (DepEd).

She said that most of the time, the callers confide and cite problems about love, incest (from relatives or family members), gender issue, identity, divorces, separations in families and a little about aging.

“Gender issue is one in the top three (problems),” she added.

She also said that there are young people who feel lonely and isolated, usually during Christmas and Valentine’s Day occasions, which can result to suicide. The counselors and psychologists will try to address these as they communicate with them.

Hopeline representatives who answer the calls can explain to them that suicide is not an option and there are ways to deal with it, like talking to a doctor who can manage the condition. 

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