Health News

Many Filipinos feel isolated — WHO

Photo © Ibarra C. Mateo
Photo © Ibarra C. Mateo

DOCTOR Gundo Aurel Weiler, the World Health Organization (WHO) representative to the Philippines, cited the important collaboration among the Department of Health (DOH) and its private and civil society partners to significantly crack and break the social isolation felt by many Filipinos today.

The WHO, DOH, and their private sector and civil society partners said the social isolation burdening many Filipinos today may lead them to commit suicide.

The joint action by the DOH, and its civil society and private sector partners, in nurturing a condition to provide counseling support and services to individuals in emotional and mental crises is a crucial step, said Weiler. 

“Some people will turn to a trusted family member. Other people will turn to health professionals. Others will turn to a hotline and to a crisis line that has been set-up,” Weilier said.

“This is why it is important to offer and to create a range of opportunities for people to seek support,” Dr. Weiler told a media conference at the DOH compound on Sept. 13.

To mark the annual World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) on September 10, the DOH led by DOH Secretary Paulyn Jean B. Rosell Ubial, and joined by Weiler, the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation NGF), and Globe Telecom’s Globe Citizenship, formally launched the “Hopeline Project,” a 24/7 suicide prevention hotline.

The Philippines moved to Sept. 13 the commemoration of the WSPD because Sept. 10 was a Saturday and the following Monday was a holiday.

Health Secretary Ubial, Weiler, Natasha Goulbourn of NGF, and Fernando Esguerra, Jr. of Globe Citizenship appeared together before members of the media to formally launch the Hopeline Project.

“Suicide, as Secretary Ubial has outlined, is indeed a critical issue. We heard that in this country, the rate of suicide is lower than many of the other countries. It is good news. I think it testifies to the potential of Filipino communities and families to connect and to care for one another,” Weiler said.

“However, every single suicide is still a tragedy. There is an estimated 2,500 suicide cases that are reported this country. Probably, many more are unreported,” Weiler said. “So it is important to create a condition to support people in crises and who are thinking about suicide.”

“The important message that we want to pass on to people in crises is this: to have suicidal ideation is nothing to be ashamed of,” Weiler said.

“The single biggest factor in thinking about committing suicide is the feeling of isolation” Weiler said.

“There is no single symptom to tell if a person is thinking about suicide. But the lead symptom that we see that keeps people into coming into suicidal ideation is that they do not feel connected. That’s why we have the National Suicide Prevention Day,” Weiler said.

“I am pleased to present the country’s national suicide hotline to our fellow Filipinos. Finally, there’s a hotline for us to call when we experience psychological and emotional issues. We are very optimistic that we can fully implement Hopeline and address mental health issues in an innovative way,” Ubial said.

The project will emphasize three “Cs: Connect, Communicate, and Care,” the theme of the 2016 WSPD.

“Connect, communicate, and care: these are the three words at the heart of suicide prevention,” Ubial said.

The project is a part of the DOH move “to bridge the gap in the mental health services in the country in line with the tagline ‘Health for All’ which aims to have better health outcomes for every Filipino.”

Started in Cebu by the NGF, the Hopeline Project will now cover the entire country to support emotionally distressed individuals.

The DOH-National Capital Region (NCR) Regional Office and the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) are behind the tie-up with NGF and Globe Citizenship.

The new partnership will allow the NCMH, an agency of the DOH, to provide training of psychiatrists and psychologists who will be assigned to handle telephone calls in the hotlines.

The Hopeline hotlines are: (02) 805-HOPE (4673); 0917.558 HOPE (4673) and 2919 (toll-free for Globe and TM).

While the DOH will provide trained medical personnel and equipment, Globe Telecom will support the project with technology for the crisis hotline.

“Spread the word, spread the number. Let us help families and friends who suffer from depression to reach out to our health professionals through the hotline,” Ubial said.

The telephone calls to the hotlines are confidential, Ubial said. Callers may also contact the national assistance number of 8888, which will then in turn, channel the calls to Hopeline.

The WHO estimates that about 800,000 people die by suicide globally each year.

“That’s one person every 40 seconds,” Ubial said.

In the Philippines, the estimated number of suicides in 2012 was 2,558 (550 females; 2008 males), or a suicide rate of 2.9 per 100,000 population.

The Philippines, however, ranked the lowest in suicide rates in comparison with other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries. The Philippines ranks 150 out of 170 countries in terms of suicide rates, according to one WHO report.

Meanwhile, Goulborn said the NGF had developed modules for school children, and is now cooperating with the Department of Education (DepEd) in an information and education campaign about suicide prevention.

Goulborn said the most common problems mentioned were love issues, incest, gender issues, and marital problems.

Ibarra C. Mateo
A journalist since 1983, Ibarra C. Mateo is also an editor, a researcher, and a communication consultant.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.