Calls continue to flood National Center for Mental Health hotline

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 24) — More than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, calls continue to flood the National Center for Mental Health's crisis hotline.

NCMH Crisis Hotline director Dr. Bernard Argamosa said they received around 1,000 calls monthly since last year, an increase from the 250 to 300 calls per month in 2019.

Most of the calls were from people seeking mental health services as they cannot contact their psychiatrists or visit hospitals amid the pandemic, Argamosa added.

"Bago pa po ang pandemya, marami na po tayong mga kababayan na suffering from psychotic disorders. Unfortunately, kaya po sila napapatawag sa amin, kasi even yung mga dapat nilang hospital, yung mga dati nilang psychiatrists, hindi na nila ma-contact," he told CNN Philippines' Newsroom Ngayon.

[Translation: Even before the pandemic happened, many were already suffering from psychotic disorders. Unfortunately, they are calling us because they cannot contact their hospitals or their psychiatrists.]

"Ang nangyayari, instead of calling us lang para crisis situation interventions, even yung clinical cases with medications napapapunta na po sa amin. Kaya grabe po yung spike ng tawag," Argamosa said.

[Translation: What is happening, instead of calling us just for crisis situation interventions, even clinical cases with medications are being consulted with us. That's why there is a spike in the number of calls.]

Data from the NCMH showed the top reasons for calling the crisis hotline include anxiety and depression-related concerns, referral to psychiatrists or psychologists, inquiry regarding hospital services, love and relationship problems, and psychosis or bizarre behavior.

Argamosa said they refer callers with serious cases to a psychiatrist as the crisis hotline only offers crisis situation interventions.

"Kapag tingin namin kailangan ng next level of intervention, tsaka po namin either ire-refer sa outpatient namin, lalo na yung psychosis, or sa mga partners natin na psychologists and psychiatrists na nasa aming master list," he said.

[Translation: If we think that next level of intervention is needed, then we will refer the person to our outpatient service, especially for those experiencing psychosis, or to our psychologists and psychiatrists in our master list.]

"Physical and mental health, magkasama 'yan...Ngayong pandemic, let's think of ourselves first," Argamosa added.

[Translation: Physical and mental health always go with each other...This pandemic, let's think of ourselves first.]

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, (0966)-351-4518, (0908)-639-2672 or 1553 (Luzon-wide landline toll-free)