Following the increase in the number of deaths by suicide in recent years, Senator Win Gatchalian has filed a resolution seeking a Senate inquiry into the implementation of the Mental Health Act (Republic Act No. 11036).
“Considering a looming mental health pandemic, it is crucial for the government to urgently intervene by improving and investing in mental health services across healthcare, protection, education, and welfare,” Gatchalian said.
In filing Proposed Senate Resolution No. 671, Gatchalian highlighted the significance of COVID-19 as a wake-up call to prioritize public mental health services in the country. Despite the initiation of national and local mental health programs during the pandemic, a February 2021 policy brief from De La Salle University revealed sporadic efforts and a lack of comprehensive collaborative approach.
Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Gatchalian sounded the alarm on the 74% increase in suicide incidents from 2019 to 2020, which then made it the 28th leading cause of death in the country. In 2019, suicides ranked as the 39th leading cause of death in the Philippines. There were 4,892 recorded cases of death due to intentional self-harm in 2020, surpassing the 2,808 deaths recorded in 2019.
While the preliminary estimated number of suicides for 2022 stood at 2,865, the average number of deaths by suicide rose significantly during and after the pandemic. From the pre-pandemic annual average of 2,752 recorded from 2017 to 2019, the annual average of deaths by suicide rose to 4,085 from 2020 to 2022.
The Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Basic Education also emphasized that learners were not spared from the pandemic’s impact on Filipinos’ mental health. For School Years 2020-2021 and 2021-2022, data from the Department of Education (DepEd) showed that 412 learners died by suicide.
In a hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Health and Demography on May 9, 2023, Gatchalian pointed out that the National Center for Mental Health received 3,125 calls in 2019, 700 of which were suicide related. In 2020, the calls increased to 11,000, with suicide-related calls rising to 2,800. The number of calls further rose to 14,000 in 2021, and 5,000 of which are suicide related. This is almost seven times higher than the figure in 2019.