As societies across the world continue living under strict confinement rules to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease, there are other illnesses as dangerous as COVID-19 spreading fast in the Philippines–depression and suicide.
At the end of August, mental health experts from the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) rang the alarm bells about the rising cases of depression and calls registered in suicide hotlines.
Since the beginning of the pandemic the NCMH has noted a significant increase in monthly hotline calls regarding depression, with numbers rising from 80 calls pre-lockdown to nearly 400.
Under pressure to “flatten the curve” of the number of infections and deaths due to coronavirus, governments are narrowing down the scope of health to COVID-19, neglecting other illnesses and the side effects of the lockdowns on the well-being of the populations.
Depression, anxiety and suicide are mental issues concomitant to coronavirus caused by mobility restrictions, confinement in one’s home, isolation, loss of income and the inability to provide for one’s family.
The loss of employment and consequent inability to provide for one’s family is adding a great deal of stress to families leading many people to despair and suicide.
The problem has drawn the attention of government and health officials who have recognized the importance of mental health in the battle against COVID-19.
Urged to promote a holistic health that cares for the body, mind and spirit, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) has sought the help of the Catholic Church, other denominations and religions to provide counseling to citizens suffering from depression and anguish amid the pandemic.
In a featured article published in the Catholic news website Licas.news with the title “An illness as dangerous as COVID-19 is spreading in the Philippines,” journalist Mark Saludes reports how the Catholic Church responded right from the start of the pandemic in mid-March to the increasing numbers of people suffering from mental issues.
Church institutions and faith groups have been offering mental and spiritual online consultations to people who need professional help and the possibility to talk with priest counselors.
National and local governments working hand in hand with private institutions, NGOs and Churches will be able to respond more effectively to mental health problems in the midst of this pandemic.