Lanao Crisis Committee: 2,500 IDPs show signs of schizophrenia

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 25) — Around 2,500 evacuees of the Marawi crisis are showing initial signs of schizophrenia, the Lanao del Sur Crisis Committee spokesperson Zia Alonto Adiong said Tuesday.

"The latest figure we received... 2,500 of our evacuees manifested an early stage of schizophrenia... They already made up their own reality to escape their suffering," Adiong told CNN Philippines' The Source.

Adiong attributed to the figures to the Integrated Provincial Health Office of Lanao del Sur.

Over 400,000 have been displaced by the Marawi crisis, which began on May 23 when ISIS-linked Maute fighters clashed with government troops.

Almost 27,000 of the displaced are scattered across 87 evacuation centers, according to a press briefing with the Presidential Communications Office on July 17.

The mental illness might have been brought about "because you cannot escape physically from your current state of problems, so you tend to escape — create your own reality," said Adiong.

The Department of Health has been providing some psychological support for IDPs. Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial on July 17 enumerated their mental health services to include psychosocial first aid, processing, and stress coping mechanism.

However, Adiong says that these debriefings "can only do so much."

"When you talk about health issues, it has to be regularly checked and monitored by an expert," said Adiong.

Some of the symptoms doctors recognized among evacuees included incoherent thought and being unaware of their surroundings.

"Every time nakikipag-usap [If you talk to them]... it's not grounded on reality. When they talk, they are not in the exact place they are in... Parang wala sila sa [It's like they're not in an] evacuation center," said Adiong.

However, the Marawi native also anticipated that sometimes there is a tendency to resist measures to preserve mental health because of the stigma attached to mental illness.

"Some of them, even the families do not want to place them under intensive care dahil nga culturally hindi pa [because they are not yet culturally] open ang mga tao for mental health issues," said Adiong.

"Parang feeling nila it's something that they should hide — it's a family problem, so they can deal with it among the family members, so hindi na nila kailangan ng medical help."

When asked whether the government was doing enough, Adiong answered, "They need to do more."

SONA could have covered Marawi

Adiong also said that he was anticipating President Rodrigo Duterte to raise rehabilitation in Marawi City during the State of the Nation Address on Monday.

"I was waiting for him to go into detail, [specifically], how he would manage and handle, assist the evacuees — just at least the recovery plan and the rehabilitation for Marawi City," said Adiong.

Duterte announced in his address that the government would get P25 billion in rehabilitation funds from the dues of tobacco company Mighty Corporation.

The company lost a lawsuit against the government after it was accused of tax evasion.

"I was waiting na it's going to be included na in the [General Appropriations Act], it's not going to be outsourced from any lawsuit. It has to be... a priority of the administration," Adiong told CNN Philippines on Monday.

He also noted that Duterte concentrated on military efforts in Marawi. The President defended the declaration of martial law in Mindanao and its extension until the end of the year during his speech.

However, residents of Marawi are not inclined toward the extension — even as the declaration of martial law followed the siege in Marawi.

Related: Maranao turns emotional as she cites human rights violations in Marawi

Adiong emphasized that the government must tap the locals and "[give] them importance," saying they might become sympathetic to extremist groups if they were not given premium.

While Adiong said it was good to focus on military efforts, he also said that it was also a "humanitarian crisis."

"May namamatay sa mga military, may namamatay sa ating sibilyan [Some military men die, and so do civilians]. So it's going to be a balance, how you would really handle Lanao Del Sur and Marawi crisis," Adiong said.

He added that it may have been the ad lib portions of Duterte's speech that caused him to miss out on discussing issues in Mindanao, including the peace process.

CNN Philippines Correspondent JC Gotinga contributed to this report.