Mental health of Filipinos today
AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) - August 27, 2018 - 12:00am

The new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is in but only for a few months.  I don’t have any qualms about Chief Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro getting the highest position in the judiciary.  I think she will serve her term well.  My problem is that her time is too short.  Many government officials especially in the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines are appointed in this manner and truth to tell they don’t get things done. 

In the case of the Supreme Court, I think the President chose her not only for her qualification and seniority but because she will retire soon.  This gives more time for the Executive branch to look for the right person in the Supreme Court.

Some say it is a good move for the Supreme Court since following protocol and tradition is re-established. I say it’s a sort of pa consuelo de bobo kind of thing.  Who would accept such a job?  For De Castro’s dignity, she shouldn’t have even accepted the offer unless she is desperately seeking recognition like many officials do. Working for only two months is nonsense.  What work will she be able to do?  This is how government service is disrupted and destroyed.  This is why we will never progress.  We indulge people who are hungry for power even to have or to feel it for only a second. Susmariosep!

Let’s see what happens next.  Will Carpio reconsider or will they appoint Bersamin? Abangan!

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World Suicide Prevention Day will be observed on September 10.  According to the International Association for Suicide Prevention (or IASP), three thousand people die everyday by suicide or an estimate of one million per year.  By year 2020, the estimated number of deaths will rise to 1.5 million per year.

The Philippines has the highest number of depressed people in Southeast Asia. The National Statistics Office reported that mental illness is the third most common form of disability in the country. Records show a high number of cases among the youth.

The study conducted by the Global Burden of Disease in 2015 reported that 3.3. million Filipinos suffer from depressive disorders, with suicide rates in 2.5 males and 1.7 females per 100,000.  The World Health Organization, however, thinks that the numbers could be just a portion of the actual problem, especially because in a Catholic country like ours, talking about mental health creates a stigma among Filipinos, thus suicide incidents could be under-reported.

In recent years, non-government organizations in cooperation with medical experts started working with the government to establish anti-suicide measures. One of these organizations is the Natasha Goulbourne Foundation (NGF).  The foundation’s advocacy is bringing depression to light through awareness by information dissemination and education, suicide prevention and lessen the stigma associated with this disease. The organization envisions all Filipinos and everyone in the Philippines to achieve the best possible mental and emotional health.

NGF has HOPELINE, a 24/7 Suicide Prevention and Emotional Crisis hotline in partnership with Globe, Consuelo Foundation, BPI Foundation, SM Foundation and the Chito Madrigal Foundation. It is not easy to sustain such an endeavor.  I take my hat off to Jean Goulbourne for her patience and determination. NGOs like these need more government support. 

We need to address the problem on mental health. Indifference will lead us nowhere. Read about it and start acting to make a difference in your family, community and in the country.

By the way, there will be a concert, Jazz Beyond the Blues sponsored by the Singapore Embassy, Globe and Philippine Airlines to help raise funds for the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation on September 10 at 5:30 p.m. at the New World Hotel. Let’s support this good cause to save lives!

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I received a letter from PAGASA’s Administrator Vicente Malano last August 8 responding to my column written on July 30, 2018 entitled ‘Rainy Daze’.  Malano said that I may not be informed about PAGASA’s forecast products. Contrary to what he stated, I am very much aware of their products.  In fact, I have browsed through the Bagong PAGASA website many times.  The site looks like a candy store, full of goods but not really hitting what we need to know.  It is full of literature and general weather forecasts.

I am aware that PAGASA has launched new features in their services.  An upgrade of what it was a few years ago.  I’m sure they were challenged by the many weather channels now available. But as a user, I still feel it should improve. Their regular weather forecasts continue to confuse the public.  They need to be more precise.  They must also admit that forecasting cannot be one hundred percent accurate.  They should admit that their models are only 60%-70% accurate especially in predicting weather conditions in tropical regions. They should let the public know these facts because at the end of the day, it is the LGUs or the Mayors who take the blame for their inaccuracy.

With regard to the new features of the Bagong PAGASA website, I remember when it was launched last June (barely four months ago). Last time I checked the site and noted the hourly forecast it provides for certain locations like for Quezon City, I was feeling a bit more positive. However, functionality of this feature is still limited. It does not provide for specific forecasts for particular hours on the following days ahead. It only provides a general forecast of the current day. Another limitation is that not all cities, especially in Metro Manila, are featured on the website, like San Juan City.

While it is true that they have now cast micro scale forecasting, the other issue is the science communication to LGU officials who are the main decision-makers when it comes to class/ work cancellations. While Pasig City is well-known for its best practices in DRR, San Juan City, on the other hand, is always one of the last to issue announcements for suspension. This may indicate that the City Officials do not have the same capacity or knowledge as other cities when it comes to weather information.  Being a small city, I presume San Juan cannot afford expensive weather forecasting equipment. So, will PAGASA just ignore this concern?  Shouldn’t PAGASA address such needs? In fact, why do other cities even have to spend for such forecasting equipment? Doesn’t this tell all about PAGASA’s service to the country? 

Lastly, when talking about weather forecasts, it is important to note that given the technology we have now, a 50% success rate is already high. What matters more to me is that the information about potential flooding and heavy rainfall is available for all cities and for at least three days in advance, with specific intervals per day, so that people can at least prepare and are not surprised. 

I commend the NDRRMC for its effort regarding Rainfall Alerts through SMS but as I read in Jarius Bondoc’s column, “Gotcha” (August 15, 2018), the alerts arrive two or three hours late for some individuals. I’m not sure if this issue can be solved without tackling telecommunications problems but at least people are aware of the heavy rainfall and flood hazards in case they are in the area of concern.

Perhaps PAGASA can come up with a stronger and more comprehensive information campaign for the public about what new tools and information they have available. They should teach the public how to use their site to make it more functional to end users.  Nevertheless, I welcome their updates so that the public can be better prepared for any potential hazards in the future.

MENTAL HEALTH
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