Civil Defense Office: Mental health situation of Marawi evacuees 'not alarming'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 13) — The Office of Civil Defense (OCD) said it is not alarmed by the rising number of Marawi evacuees facing mental health issues.

"We are prepared," said Office of Civil Defense Deputy Administrator Kristoffer Purisima in an Aug. 11 Palace briefing. "This shouldn't be alarming because normal 'to, in the sense that kung may pangangailangan sila, tinutugunan natin 'yun at different levels, even at the lowest or most basic levels."

[Translation: This shouldn't be alarming because this is normal, in the sense that if they need assistance, we are catering to those needs at different levels, even at the lowest or most basic levels.]

Purisima said around 30,000 people have availed of psychosocial first aid, stress debriefing, and psychiatric treatments.

"Alam naman natin na dahil matagal na ang ating mga kababayan sa evacuation centers, siyempre meron din silang mga nararamdaman," he said. "At ina-address 'to. Ang importante dito, ina-address 'to ng ating mga ahensya."

[Translation: We all know that because our fellow Filipinos have spent a long time in evacuation centers, they don't feel well. And these issues are addressed. The important thing here is that our agencies are addressing this.]

Over 600,000 people have been displaced by the conflict, which started on May 23 when members of the ISIS-inspired Maute terrorist group charged into Marawi City as government forces were attempting to arrest former Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who was appointed "emir" of Southeast Asia by terrorist group ISIS.

Read: Gov't forces, Maute group clash in Marawi City

The Lanao del Sur Provincial Health Office said on Aug. 6 that 7,248 evacuees need mental health intervention and psychosocial support, with 78 being hospitalized for severe mental health issues.

Read: Over 7,200 Marawi crisis evacuees face mental health issues

Marawi Crisis Management Committee Spokesperson Zia Alonto Adiong also told CNN Philippines' The Source on July 25 that some 2,500 internally displaced persons showed initial signs of schizophrenia.

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

"They already made up their own reality to escape their suffering," he said.

However, Purisima said the issues don't constitute a mental health crisis.

"A crisis is something that you cannot address," he said. "We are recognizing that there are needs of our people on the ground. And we're responding to those needs. So in that sense, this is not a crisis because we know what their needs are and we are responding the best way we can to their needs."