THINK ON THESE: Not just in the head 

The Philippines has the highest number of depressed people in Southeast Asia, according to Senator Risa Hontiveros, chair of the Senate Committee on Health.  In fact, one in 5 adult Filipinos suffer from mental or psychiatric disorder.

It is not surprising why suicide cases in the country has been growing over a period of 20 years.  The Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) reported the Philippines has suicide rates (per 100,000) of 2.5 for men and 1.7 for women as of 1993.

“But these numbers don’t necessarily tell the entire story,” wrote Lila Ramos-Shanani in her column for Philippine Star.  “According to the WHO, they probably represent only a portion of the whole, because suicides statistics are vulnerable to under-reporting in a predominantly Catholic country like the Philippines.”

Maria Theresa Redaniel, May Antonnette Lebanan-Dalida, and David Gunnell, authors of a study entitled, “Suicide in the Philippines: time trend analysis (1974-2005) and literature review,” wrote that the most commonly used methods of suicide were hanging, shooting and pesticide ingestion. In non-fatal attempts, the most common methods used were ingestion of drugs or pesticide ingestion. Family and relationship problems were the most common problems reported.

“While suicide rates are low in the Philippines, increases in incidence and relatively high rates in adolescents and young adults point to the importance of focused suicide prevention programs,” the study concluded.  “Improving data quality and better reporting of suicide deaths is likewise imperative to inform and evaluate prevention strategies.”

More often than not, most of those who commit suicide are men and in their twenties.  Luceno Bejona, a security guard under the Paseca Security Agency, was caught by surprised when heard a big bang at the entrance-exit of the parking lot of one of the biggest malls in Davao City some years back.

Bejona was at the ground floor at the time.  So, he tried to find out what the noise was all about.  He was shocked to see a bloodied man, wearing a white polo shirt and black cargo pants, lying face down.

The victim was later identified.  In his Facebook account, the victim wrote that he was planning to do it.  “I decided to go hindi dahil sa kasalanan ko ngaun… dahil matagal ko na tong plano, sana pala ginawa ko na noon di na sana ako nka gawa pa ng ibang kasalanan at makapanakit ng damdamin ng ibang tao,” he wrote.

To a comment to his status by a friend who was telling him not to do something drastic, he replied: “Dli ni sya dautan teh mao jud ni sya akong disisyon (This is not wrong, sister, this is really my decision).”

The country has only one psychiatrist for every 250,000 people, admitted Dr. Paulyn Ubial, secretary of the Department of Health (DOH).  The figure is far from the ideal ratio of one is to 50,000.  As such, her department is planning to train general practitioners, rural doctors, and municipal and city health officers to be mental health providers.

We’re also training psychologists to give mental health first aid,” Dr. Ubial was quoted as saying by the state-run Philippine News Agency during a media briefing held at the DOH media relations unit in Manila on the occasion of World Health Day.

According to the health secretary, she does not want mental health patients to be institutionalized as much as possible.  Instead, they should be cared for at the community level or at home, she explained.

Based on a survey conducted in 2000 by the National Statistics Office, mental illness is the third most common form of disability in the country – after visual and hearing impairments.  For every 100,000 Filipinos, about 88 of them suffer from mental illness due to heredity, psychosocial development and substance abuse.

In Davao City, Dr. Mary Joselle D. Villafuerte – a councilor of the third district – has filed an ordinance entitled “Mental Health Code of 2016,” which if passed will “uphold the right of the people to mental health and encourage mental health consciousness among them.”

Dr. Villafuerte, a medical doctor who once studied psychology at the St. Paul University Manila, said the ordinance has eight objectives.  The first four are: promote a shift from a hospital-based system to a strengthened community-based mental health care delivery system; reorient and modernize the existing mental health facilities; integrate mental health care in the general health care delivery system; and promote, prevent and manage mental health at all levels and treat and rehabilitate persons with mental disability.

The remaining four objectives are as follows: provide access to comprehensive health care and treatment to ensure a well-balanced mental health program in the community and hospital; establish a multi-sectoral joint network of mental illness or disability and the management of mental health problems among vulnerable groups; protect and promote the mental health of the people through a multi-disciplinary approach; and provide adequate support and follow-up mechanisms for the discharged.

Meanwhile, the statistics from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015 showed some 3.29 million Filipinos or 3.3 percent of the population were suffering from depressive disorders while 3.07 million or 3.1 percent were suffering from anxiety disorders.

American president Abraham Lincoln once said, “Most people are about as happy as they choose to be.”  He knew better.  He went through much anguish in his life – the death of his fiancée, lost elections, the Civil War, and other major disappointments.

At one period of his life he was so depressed he considered suicide.  But Lincoln chose to overcome his depression.  He chose to be happy and obtained inner joy and peace in those last years before he was assassinated by a mentally-disturbed man.

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