Suicides rise among Pinoy youth; pandemic takes toll on mental health

As the Covid-19 pandemic may have worsened the mental health concerns of Filipino youth, BHW Party-list Rep. Angelica Natasha Co on Monday, Feb. 20, raised concern on the “burgeoning number” of suicide attempts among Filipino teens and the challenges the government faces in implementing the Mental Health Act.

Council for Welfare of Children (CWC) Undersecretary Angelo Tapales (Photo from Usec. Tapales via Facebook)

During the hearing of the House Committee on Welfare of Children, the lawmaker lamented the recent reports of violence and suicide attempts among students in several schools.

“Mental health is a very significant topic, and should be discussed more frequently due to the exponential rising of mental health cases overt the last five years,” she said in her opening remarks.

“To talk about mental health is not merely to seek attention. We ought to address the alarming and increasing number of incidents of suicide due to various mental health concerns; and identify the challenges in the delivery of the appropriate mental health and well-being services and programs,” she added.

Citing a World Vision Philippines study, Council for Welfare of Children (CWC) Undersecretary Angelo Tapales noted the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on Filipino adolescents and youth. CWC is an attached agency of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

The study stated that among respondents, 54 percent of children expressed negative emotions such as sadness, fear, and worry; 41 percent of children confirmed that caregivers have used either physical and psychological punishments; 84 percent of children felt worried for themselves and their families; and 19 percent of children are unware or unsure about child protection services.

Furthermore, the declaration “of different quarantine guidelines limited people's mobility, (with) of different quarantine guidelines limited people's mobility.”

He said that the “access to health services decrease drastically” because of the quarantine measures.

READ: Young solon shook up by high suicide rate among Pinoy students

But a study from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization (WHO) gave a more thorough insight into the situation of the children’s mental health.

“Among Filipino children aged 5 to 15, 10 percent to 15 percent are affected by mental health problems,” the lawmaker said, citing the UNICEF 2018 Situational Analysis.

On the other hand, WHO’s 2015 Global school/based Student Health survey revealed that 16.8 percent of Filipino students aged 13 to 17 have attempted suicide at least once within a year.

A separate study by the Department of Education (DepEd) showed that “one in four students have seriously considered attempting suicide” and “one in five students have actually attempted suicide.”

Tapales stressed the need yo “reexamine” the government’s policies on mental health.

“Because of the pandemic we believe the figure has even increase and as such there is really a need to reexamine the mental health policies of the government,” he said.

While “we are in the right direction,” Tapales pushed that “we have to do more,” such as child-centered intervention.

Unfortunately, despite these figures, he said that there are only “60 child psychiatrists practicing in the Philippines, with the majority of them practicing in urban areas such as the National Capital Region,” so “children with mental health problems who are in rural areas have less access to such services.”