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Suicide Cases Spiked 57% In 2020 – Report

Suicide Cases Spiked 57% In 2020 – Report
Image by Daniel Reche from Pixabay

A senior administration congressman urged the Department of Health (DOH) on Monday, Oct. 25, to take a more serious look at the implementation of the National Mental Health Law after suicide cases were reported to have surged in the past year.

Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas, chairman of the social services committee of the House of Representatives, expressed alarm after the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported a 57% rise in the country’s suicide rate.

Quoting from the PSA report, he said suicide cases “jumped from the 31st slot in 2019 to 25th as the leading cause of death in 2020.”

“A total of 4,420 suicide deaths were reported in 2020 compared to 2,810 in 2019,” he said.

“These figures reveal the underlying gaps in the implementation of the National Mental Health Act. These must be addressed immediately and conscientiously by the DOH and other related agencies through pro-active and accessible programs and services,” he added.

Vargas also noted that a Philippine World Health Organization Special Initiative for Mental Health report conducted in early 2020 revealed that at least 3.6 million Filipinos suffered from one kind of mental, neurological and substance use disorder.

“This alarming social concern greatly affects a huge number of the population,” he said.

While the Mental Health Law (Republic Act No. 11036) contains provisions for services for those with mental health conditions, Vargas said even the health secretary has acknowledged the urgent need to expand services and assistance.

“Apart from the statistics on the mental health situation of the country, stakeholders must also be provided with necessary and relevant reports on the allocation of the budget for mental health programs and the implementation of the National Strategic Plan of the Mental Health Act,” a portion of Vargas’ House Resolution No. 2312 read.

House Deputy Speaker and Antique Rep. Loren Legarda lamented that the national government has earmarked a minuscule 5% in the health budget for purposes of addressing mental health concerns, especially at a time of repeated, extended lockdowns.

In a statement, she cited the recent study made by Myles Tan and Nicholle Maravilla where only 5% the health care expenditure is directed toward mental health and that there are “only 7.76 hospital beds and 0.41 psychiatrists per 100,000 people.”

“We sometimes neglect to prioritize the mental health of every citizen of this nation without us knowing its effects on people’s day-to-day performance on education, employment, physical health and even relationships,” the Antique congresswoman stressed.

This has been the finding of the Tan-Maravilla study even after RA 11036 was signed into law by President Duterte in 2018, according to the former senator, who co-authored the Mental Health Law.

Oct. 10 has been declared as this year’s World Mental Health Day, with the theme, “Mental Health in an Unequal World.”

Legarda also revealed that no less than the DOH has reported that one in five Filipino adults suffers from mental illness, such as schizophrenia, depression and anxiety.

“Mental health is one aspect in the society that is not given utmost attention. Let’s fully utilize the Mental Health Care Act,” she said. The law seeks to provide affordable and accessible mental health services for Filipinos suffering from mental disabilities.

In 2012, the World Health Organization reported 2,558 cases of Filipinos committing suicide, averaging seven cases per day.

“The pandemic has highlighted the need to also take care of our mental health to help us survive and thrive despite the current challenges. This is one of the many laws that I passed and these are relevant and helpful in coping with changes caused by the current health crisis,” she said.