Don’t forget your mental health, Filipinos reminded

Published October 10, 2020, 1:45 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

As countries observe World Mental Health Day, Sen. Francis Pangilinan urged Filipinos Saturday to not to forget their mental health amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senator Francis Pangilinan (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

“The fear, uncertainty, isolation, and economic deprivation should not be ignored because they could cause psychological stress. The mental health and well-being of the people are priorities that should be addressed urgently,” Pangilinan said.

Despite the quarantine and physical distancing protocols to curb the coronavirus outbreak, he said it is still important to stay connected by checking in on family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors, especially those who are in need of extra assistance, via phone or social media.

“Having someone to talk to can be very helpful during days that one can find overwhelming. As we observe physical distancing, we must remain connected towards social solidarity,” he said.

He said the government, through the Department of Health and barangay health workers, should include in the COVID-19 response measures to address mental health issues.

The lawmaker said barangays should provide a hotline manned by trained health workers who can provide emergency mental health services through online or tele-counselling.

They should also be ready to respond immediately to more serious cases such as domestic violence and extreme depression, he added.

He likewise said that families, on their own, could take “extra effort” to be aware of the condition of their children and each member. They could engage in activities that could hone skills, improve health, and tap the creativity in each family member.

Constant conversations should be part of the routine, he said.

Pangilinan said addressing mental health needs will not only reduce the suffering among thousands of Filipinos, but will also mitigate its long-term social and economic costs to society.

Last May, the National Center for Mental Health said it observed a spike in the number of Filipinos suffering from mental health conditions since the government imposed lockdowns due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

From around 80 calls before the lockdown, the NCMH said it is receiving 300 to 400 calls per month, mostly from people who suffer from anxiety and depression.

Groups also reported a worsening incidence of domestic violence during the lockdowns.