Amid rise in suicides, Iloilo to strengthen mental health crisis response

Janella Paris

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Amid rise in suicides, Iloilo to strengthen mental health crisis response
The province records 67 deaths due to suicide from January to September 2019


MANILA, Philippines – With 67 recorded deaths due to suicide in the province of Iloilo from January to September 2019, Iloilo’s government said it would review and strengthen its mental health crisis response.

Iloilo police data showed that the figure of suicide deaths for 9 months in 2019 surpassed the figure for all 12 months of 2018, which saw the deaths of 65 people due to suicide. (LISTEN: PODCAST: Battling depression and anxiety) 

Data for 2019 also revealed 22 of the 67 suicide victims were young, aged 10-19. (READ: A cry for help: Mental illness, suicide cases rising among youth) 

Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr said he would meet with the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO) to discuss existing and potential programs.

Also seeking to build more institutional support for mental healthcare delivery is Iloilo 5th district board member Carol Espinosa, who proposed an ordinance pushing for the creation of a Mental Health Board, the establishment of a 24/7 hotline to respond to emergency crisis, and the promotion of mental health awareness, among others.

The governor also believes in the effectivity of guidance counselling and personality development activities – services that should be provided in Iloilo’s 63 established teen centers.  

In 2004, over 4.5 million cases of depression were reported in the Philippines, according to the Department of Health (DOH). Suicide cases in the Philippines recorded by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2012 also reported over 2,000 cases from 2000 to 2012. Majority of those who died by suicide were between 15 to 29 years old.

Experts say present numbers are likely much higher since many who suffer from depression often hesitate to seek help due to the stigma that surrounds mental disorders. Refusal to seek help is also the reason why data on mental illnesses are often approximations. (READ: Is the Philippines ready to address mental health?)

Globally, the WHO reported an average of 800,000 people who die by suicide yearly – this means there is one suicide every 40 seconds. Suicide is also listed as the second highest cause of death among people between 15 and 29 years of age.

Mental health experts and advocates called on parents, teachers, and even peers, to focus on preventive efforts, like strong mental health literacy, as they could prevent the development of full-blown mental disorders, especially for the youth. Self-care also plays an important role.

Primary health delivery systems, like barangay health centers and rural health units, should also be improved upon as achieving holistic mental health is a community effort. –

In the Philippines, the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation has a depression and suicide prevention hotline to help those secretly suffering from depression. The numbers to call are ‎804-4673 and ‎0917-558-4673. Globe and TM subscribers may call the toll-free number 2919. More information is available on its website.

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