DOH reports spikes in mental health-related calls due to COVID-19 crisis

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 26) — The National Center for Mental Health’s hotline saw an alarming spike of calls in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a monthly average of 53 suicide-related concerns.

Health spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire on Wednesday said a high volume of calls were observed in the months of April, May, June, and July. The country started seeing increasing numbers of new COVID-19 cases in March; this was also the start of the world's longest lockdown.

The data from National Center for Mental Health showed that from an average of 13 to 15 daily calls before the pandemic, mental health providers are now receiving around 32 to 37 calls per day.

From around 300 to 400 calls in May 2019 to February 2020, it spiked to at least 1,000 calls from April to July.

Vergeire said majority of the calls are due to anxiety-related concerns.

She also said suicide-related calls peaked in July 2020, with 115 calls.

DOH said most of the calls were made by returning callers whose mental health conditions were exacerbated by the pandemic.

Vergeire earlier urged those undergoing alarming changes in their mental wellbeing to call the National Center for Mental Health Crisis hotline.

"Hindi porket tumawag kayo sa hotline ay loko-loko o mayroon kayong sira sa ulo. It is okay not to be okay especially in this situation na mayroong pandemiya," she said on Monday.

[Translation: Calling the hotline does not mean you're crazy. It is okay not to be okay especially in this pandemic.]

With the alarming numbers, Inter-agency Task Force chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. suggested tapping religious leaders to provide guidance and enlightenment to those struggling with their mental health amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said the government should invest in hiring mental health professionals to properly address the situation.

If you are in need of mental health support, please call the 24/7 National Center for Mental Health Crisis Hotline at (0917) 899-8727 or (02)7-989-8727 or 1553 (Landline-to-landline only).

CNN Philippines correspondent Carolyn Bonquin contributed to this report.