Amid the celebration of Mental Health Action Day, Senator Win Gatchalian reiterates his call for urgent government action to curb what he calls the mental health pandemic in the country.
Considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which also saw an increase in the number of deaths by suicide, Gatchalian emphasized the need for targeted intervention programs that would thwart suicide attempts and address mental health concerns of Filipinos.
Suicide-related calls to the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) consistently rose from 2019 to 2021. From 712 in 2019, suicide-related calls to the NCMH rose to 2,841 in 2020. The number further increased to 5,167 in 2021.
Gatchalian, however, is alarmed that there were more deaths by suicide than suicide-related calls, which suggests that many of those who died by suicide or attempted to take their lives struggled to seek help.
The lawmaker also pointed out the vulnerability of young people to mental health problems. Out of the total 21,648 total calls, including suicide-related calls, received by the NCMH for 2021, 4,800 or roughly 20 percent were from callers younger than 17. Around 60% of callers, Gatchalian pointed out, are aged 18 to 30. The combination of these two age groups suggests that 80% of those who call the NCMH belong to the working group, while others are of school age.
“Sa panahong patuloy tayong bumabangon mula sa pinsalang dinulot ng pandemya, hindi na natin maaaring ipagpaliban ang pagpapatupad ng mga hakbang upang pangalagaan ang mental health ng ating mga kababayan. Ang ating bansa ay nasa ilalim ng pandemya ng mental health at kailangan nating alagaan ang ating mga kababayan, lalo na ang mga nanganganib na makaranas ng mga isyu sa mental health,” said Gatchalian, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Basic Education.
Gatchalian recently sponsored the Basic Education Mental Health and Well-Being Promotion Act (Senate Bill No. 2200), one of his priority measures for the 19th Congress, which seeks to strengthen the delivery of mental health services in the country’s basic education schools.