Updated: Apr 4, 2022
Mental Health in the Philippines: Addressing the Issues During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The Effect of COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic altered the course of history. The spread of the virus, which resulted in multiple cases in every country, shook the world. Since then, the outbreak seems to have had an impact on everyone's lives, particularly those in the medical field. Workers in the medical field are putting their lives on the line to stop the virus from spreading further. Individuals from many countries are anxious or stressed as a result of the drastic changes in their lifestyle brought on by the lockdowns, implemented by the government.
The Philippines has been a high-risk country in the COVID-19 virus outbreak since the virus impacted every country in the world (Duddu, 2020). In order to stop the virus from spreading further, lockdowns and new rules/laws were implemented. Due to a large number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, many healthcare personnel have requested assistance in obtaining extra medical resources (e.g. hospital beds), as most of the equipment and beds now in use are already taken by other COVID-19 patients. This puts healthcare workers under stress since they lack the necessary equipment to help all of the patients who require immediate attention.
Mental Health of Filipinos During the Pandemic
COVID-19 has had an impact on everyone's lives. With all of the changes and problems that everyone has faced, both adults and children have become anxious, overwhelmed, and have experienced very powerful emotions (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020). There are different actions that have been made in every country by their government in order to raise awareness about the rise of mental health illnesses in their country.
During the World Suicide Prevention Day in 2020, the Philippines' Department of Health (DOH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) raised awareness about mental health wellness. The Department of Health teamed up with the World Health Organization to improve public awareness about mental health, especially during the period of the COVID-19 pandemic (DOH, 2020; Maramag, 2020).
The number of calls to the mental health hotline due to reasons of depression has increased since the pre-lockdown period, from only 80 calls to nearly over 400 calls (NCMH, 2020). Individuals who have been referred to the mental health hotline range in age from 15 to 29 years old. Apart from COVID-19-related mortality, mental health-related deaths have been the second leading cause of death in this age range. This simply goes to prove that the Philippines needs more programs or discussions to try to break the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health, particularly seeking treatment (DOH, 2020; Maramag, 2020).
Teleconsultation for Mental Health
The spike in mental health hotline calls is concerning; since the pandemic began, a large number of people have sought expert support through online consultations. Because face-to-face counseling in hospitals might be dangerous, teleconsultation or internet consultation has taken its place to assist persons suffering from mental health illnesses. There are a variety of free teleconsultations available now for anyone who needs assistance or is unsure about how they are feeling. However, some people may find it unsettling to consult with a doctor via online chat or video chats (Ku, 2020). Aside from that, many Filipinos do not have access to the internet, making it difficult for them to seek online help for their mental health.
Projects/Programs for Mental Health Intervention in the Philippines
They have established a multi-sectoral approach for mental health with programs and treatments in many settings (e.g., workplace, school, etc.) aimed at the high-risk population, thanks to the collaboration between the DOH and WHO (2020). Another product of this collaboration is the National Center for Mental Health's crisis hotline called Kamusta ka? Tara usap tayo, which was published in May of 2019.. This hotline is open 24/7.
Another one is from the UP Diliman Psychosocial Services (UPD PsychServ) (University of the Philippines, 2020), which provides free counseling through phone calls for front liners. In addition, the Mental Health Act (RA 11036) authorizes the efficient and effective delivery of suicide prevention services on a national scale, including crisis intervention and a response strategy (DOH, 2020).
Here are some things that might help you (DOH & WHO, 2020):
Understand and sympathize with them and let them know that you care about them and that they are not alone.
Be non-judgmental. Don’t criticize or condemn them.
Demonstrate that you're paying attention by repeating what they've said. This will also ensure that you have fully comprehended them.
Ask a few questions about their motivations for living and dying, and pay attention to their responses. Make an effort to learn more about their motivations for life.
Ask some questions whether they've ever felt this way before. If this is the case, check on how their feelings have altered from the last time you spoke with them.
Assure them that their feelings will not last forever.
Inspire them to concentrate on surviving the day rather than planning for the future.
Aid them to find help from a professional by volunteering. If necessary, volunteer to accompany them to their appointment with a competent therapist.
Any obligations you make should be followed up.
When they're in urgent danger, make sure someone is with them.
If you're not sure how to help, seek advice from a medical practitioner.
Always remember that you don’t have to really give them answers, but rather you should listen to them and let them know that you care. With the DOH and WHO Philippines’ collaboration, they call every Filipino to be more involved in Mental Health discussions to become more aware and to give aid to people who need help and support.
Contact Information for NCMH’s Crisis Hotline
24/7 NCMH Crisis Hotline 1553:
0917 899 8727(USAP)
COVID-19 and Your Health. (2020, February 11). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html
Department of Health. (2020, September 10). DOH AND WHO PROMOTE HOLISTIC MENTAL WELLNESS IN LIGHT OF WORLD SUICIDE PREVENTION DAY [Press release]. https://doh.gov.ph/press-release/DOH-AND-WHO-PROMOTE-HOLISTIC-MENTAL-WELLNESS-IN-LIGHT-OF-WORLD-SUICIDE-PREVENTION-DAY
Ku, R. (2020, October 10). Despite teleconsultations, access to mental health services remains limited. Rappler. https://www.rappler.com/moveph/despite-teleconsultations-access-to-mental-health-services-remains-limited
Maramag, G. (2020, September 10). DOH and WHO promote holistic mental health wellness in light of World Suicide Prevention Day. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/philippines/news/detail/10-09-2020-doh-and-who-promote-holistic-mental-health-wellness-in-light-of-world-suicide-prevention-day
P. (2020, March 31). Coronavirus in the Philippines: The COVID-19 risk, impact, and measures. Pharmaceutical Technology. https://www.pharmaceutical-technology.com/features/coronavirus-affected-countries-philippines-measures-impact-tourism-economy/
Y. (2021, March 9). Mental Health in the Philippines During the Pandemic. The Borgen Project. https://borgenproject.org/mental-health-in-the-philippines/