Given the pandemic response of the Philippines bombing, the economy has not been able to open. As a result, many cases of deaths stemming from self-inflicted harm occurred. In 2020 alone, the incidents went up by 25.7% compared to that of pre-pandemic times in 2019.
For 2020, suicide jumped to the 27th spot from the 31st as a leading cause of death in the country. The average number of death by suicide was at a little over 2,600 from 2015 to 2020. In 2020, intentional self-harm cases reached a whopping 3,529 cases.
Churches and spiritual leaders alike were previously tapped by the government to provide guidance and counselling in order to save them from “self-destruction” and ease pandemic anxiety. This was met with criticism from several angles.
Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK) released a statement last August 2020 that read, in part: “The calling for religious leaders to mainly address this issue is downright insulting to mental health professionals in the country, especially when these very religious institutions have created a long-held malicious narrative about mental health.”
The stigma against mental illness has seen contributions from religious institutions due to their beliefs. Plenty of followers are convinced and hold to the belief that people who fall due to suicide end up in hell.
“In order for the deaths to stop, we do not need religion, we need action. We need free mass testing, social programs, unemployment insurance, increased subsidies for the poor,” SPARK said. “We need accessible programs to help those with mental illness. We need hope.”
Many organizations have stepped up in an attempt to offer resources that are more accessible to people. This includes the likes of #MentalHealthPH, a non-profit organization that holds moderated Twitter conversations called #UsapTayo. It aims to be a safe venue for people to release their emotions.
The National Center for Mental Health and Philippine General Hospital also have psychiatric consultation and counseling services for free, though appointments have to be set beforehand.