The Philippine Statistics Authority reported a 57 percent increase in the country’s suicide rate in 2020 compared to the preceding year. The surge made suicide the 25th leading cause of death for 2020, moving up six notches from 31st in 2019. It took 4,420 lives last year compared to 2,810 deaths the previous year.
The National Center for Mental Health observed 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.
As the government’s pandemic task force responded to the rise in suicides by seeking help from religious leaders, the Commission on Human Rights urged government to invest more in mental health amid the “major disruptions and alterations” being experienced by Filipinos due to the unprecedented health crisis.
The Department of Health has acknowledged that the pandemic can affect mental health and emphasized that those who feel sad or worried during the pandemic are not alone. It urged Filipinos to remain connected despite the restrictions on movement and suggested exercise and relaxation. The DOH also urged people seeking professional support to get in touch with the National Center for Mental Health hotlines.
Many concerns have taken a back seat throughout its pandemic and the data is showing that giving mental health more attention can save more lives. As we wait for government to do more for the mental health of Filipinos, let us try harder to be more aware and vigilant of the mental health status of our friends and family members who could be vulnerable to problems, especially as we continue to deal with the effects of the lockdown restrictions on our daily lives.*