More and more Filipinos have been calling the crisis hotline of the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) since the start of community quarantine.
According to NCMH Director Roland Cortez, they are now receiving 300 to 400 calls per month. This is a notable spike compared to the average number of 60 to 80 calls that they’ve recorded before quarantine restrictions were imposed mid-March.
Cortez also said this means more people are seeking advice from experts regarding their mental health condition “mostly due to anxiety and depression because of the quarantine lockdown.”
“We can safely say, based on our existing data, there are a lot of problems being experienced by our people due to this lockdown,” said the NCMH director.
Launched in 2019 as mandated by the Mental Health Act, the NCMH crisis hotline provides assistance from experts regarding any mental health-related concerns and offers initial counseling, assessment or further professional referrals. It is especially open to those at risk of suicide who are in need of someone to talk to.
In addition, NCMH has also been accommodating overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their mental health concerns through the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration. Included in the concerns that OFWs have brought up was the stress induced by the self-quarantine they go through upon repatriation. According to OFWs, sometimes their quarantine period exceeds the prescribed 14 days due to delayed results of their COVID-19 tests.
On May 9, an amendment to the Mental Health Act seeking to allow qualified individuals to receive financial assistance was filed by Senator Sonny Angara. This is due to the case of Corporal Winston Ragos, a former member of the Army’s 31st Infantry Battalion under the 9th Infantry “Spear” Division, who was dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. He was shot dead by police following an altercation last April in Quezon City.
Ragos and his family had difficulties in maintaining his medical prescriptions since quarantine began, which eventually led to the altercation where he reportedly shouted at police officers accusing him of violating quarantine restrictions.
Meanwhile, the United Nations (UN) has also previously issued a warning regarding a possible mental health crisis due to the pandemic. Citing factors like the threat of infection and loss of livelihoods, the UN raised concerns on the mental strain that families and communities worldwide experience due to the pandemic. Moreover, they noted that psychological issues may end up exacerbated due to the unavailability of treatment and face-to-face therapy.
If you have mental health concerns or need counseling, call NCMH’s hotline at 0917-899USAP (8727) or 7989USAP (8727).
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