Only the other day, on October 10, we joined the world in celebrating World Mental Health Day, with the World Federation for Mental Health adopting the theme “Mental Health for All: Greater Investment – Greater Access.”
The theme responds straightforwardly to the World Health Organization’s findings that between June and August this year, mental health services were severely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 93 countries.
This is an opportune time for us to call on the authorities to revisit the mental health zone of the country, particularly at this time of the pandemic when the deadly coronavirus has infected and killed thousands – and the numbers are still rising, the number of recoveries notwithstanding.
We raise this concern – we do not suggest nothing is being done by the authorities – because the Philippines is in for a longer period of community quarantine, isolation, and uncertainty, with some experts bracing for what they consider a nationwide mental health scourge.
Indeed, during this difficult time, it is important to continue looking after one’s physical and mental health.
This will not only help one in the long-term, it will also help one fight COVID-19 if one gets it.
Some experts say one must eat a health and nutritious diet, which helps one’s immune system to function properly.
Second, one must limit one’s alcohol consumption, and avoid sugary drinks.
Third, one must not smoke because smoking can increase one’s risk of developing severe disease if one becomes infected with COVID-19.
Fourth, one must exercise.
During the pandemic, the main psychological impact, in public mental health terms, is to date the elevated rates of stress or anxiety.
As new measures and impacts are introduced – especially quarantine and its effects on many people’s usual activities, routines or livelihoods – levels of loneliness, depression, harmful alcohol and drug use, and self-harm or suicidal behavior are also expected to rise, according to health experts.
At the same time, children are likely to be experiencing worry, anxiety and fear, and this can include the types of fears that are very similar to those experienced by adults, like fear of dying, fear of their relatives dying, or fear of what it means to receive medical treatment.
With nearly all schools now under a distance learning environment, some say children may no longer have that sense of structure and stimulation provided by the heretofore face-to-face environment, and now they have less opportunity to be with their friends and get that social support essential for good mental well-being.
There is little epidemiological evidence on mental disorders in the Philippines.
But some important data are available. For example, 14 percent of a population of 1.4 million Filipinos with disabilities were identified to have a mental disorder, according to latest available figures from the Philippines Statistics Authority,
As such, here are the four of the most common mental illnesses that the Filipino people are facing:
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) …
Did you know that one in five Filipino adults are suffering from psychiatric disorders?
This, plus the 10 to 15 percent of children aged five to 15 believed to be affected by mental problems as well.
According to the study conducted by Dr. Tomas Bautista, about 42 percent of the 2,562 patients with mental illness suffer from this condition, making it the most common mental illness in the Philippines– with it making up roughly one percent of the country’s total population.
Of these patients, the majority belongs to the age group of 20-44. Most of them are men.
Triggered by many factors such as genetics, and environmental stress, patients with schizophrenia experience hallucinations, delusions, and mood disturbances. The number one reason why patients with schizophrenia are admitted is auditory hallucination.
Excessive alcohol consumption, opium injections, or use of illegal drugs are all under substance abuse. And this is nothing new to the country.
According to the Dangerous Drugs Board, about 5,402 Filipinos were admitted in mental health facilities due to drug use in 2015. Most of them use methamphetamine hydrochloride with a rate of 96.74 percent, followed by marijuana (24.94 percent) and cocaine (1.11 percent).
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
The Philippines has been through calamities like typhoons, landslides, and even volcanic eruptions, which left many Filipinos with negative health effects including mental problems.
In 1991, Filipinos experienced the wrath of Mt. Pinatubo eruption. Among the mental problems observed from the victims according to National Center for Biotechnology Information, PTSD was the top illness with a prevalence rate of 27.6 percent, followed by depression (14 percent).
A more recent event that caused a rise on PTSD cases in the Philippines is the Typhoon Yolanda which hit the country in 2013.
Depression can be linked to many factors. From broken marriages, to loss of a loved one; extreme sadness, hopelessness, and helplessness seem inevitable.
With the lack of resources due to the poor socioeconomic status of a number of Filipinos, they develop physical sickness and insecurity, which make them more vulnerable to depression.
One of the most unfortunate parts linked to depression is suicide. In 2012 alone, the World Health Organization reported 2,558 cases of Filipinos committing suicide. Even the youth now resort to choosing suicide as a means to escape life’s problems.
These are figures authorities must look at again – given the present pandemic zone we are in.