By Robin Gomes
“Covid Hopeline” is phone-in counselling service of the Diocese of Kalookan in Metro Manila. Its team of mental health experts and priests provides psychological and moral support to those suffering anxiety and stress due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown.
“We launched our own ‘Hopeline’ so that we’ll be able to help our people in the diocese when they need the guidance of a priest or a psychiatrist,” Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan told Church-run Radio Veritas.
The Philippines and South-East Asia
In order to contain the spread of Covid-19, Philippine government in March placed the entire country under a state of public health emergency, with heavy restrictions in some regions such as the Luzon island.
Last month, the National Center for Mental Health reported that a growing number of people were suffering anxiety and stress due to the lockdown.
The Philippines has the third highest number of Covid-19 infections in South-East Asia after Indonesia and Singapore.
The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday expressed alarm over the mental health situation in South-East Asia and urged countries in the region to pay greater attention to mental health and suicide prevention.
According to Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region, suicide claims almost 800,000 lives every year globally and is the leading cause of death among young people aged 15-29 years. Evidence shows that for each adult who dies of suicide, there are more than 20 others attempting suicide. The WHO South-East Asia Region accounts for 39 per cent of global suicide mortality.
Taking mental health seriously
Bishop David noted his diocese regards mental health needs seriously and is now reaching out to those in need with “Covid Hopeline”.
Issues such as stress, depression, trauma and domestic abuse and violence are intensifying because of the crisis caused by the lockdown and the Church needs to accompany the faithful in this phase, said the bishop, who is vice president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
Online pastoral outreach
According to him, the Church’s online and media outreach programme is a gift of modern technology that has been particularly helpful during the current crisis.
Since the lockdown, the internet and social media, he said, have served as the channel of the Church's ministry.
The social communication ministry of Kalookan Diocese has strengthened its online presence to help provide pastoral care such as through psycho-spiritual webinars and online counselling.
People in need can contact “Covid Hopeline” at 0998-4014-777.
Not just body but also mind
According to Bishop Jaime Florencio of the Military Ordinariate of the Philippines, it is not just about providing food and livelihood support during the ongoing lockdown but also mental healthcare.
The bishop who is vice chairman of CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Health Care warned that the accompanying mental health problem should not be overlooked as it is deeply affecting the country’s health and economy.
The Philippine Army on June 19, launched a mental health programme called the Mental Health Resilience Center (MHRC) in Taguig City for soldiers.
In his daily Masses during Italy's Covid-19 lockdown, Pope Francis has addressed several issues that cause stress and anxiety to families and persons. He urged for prayers for those facing a financial crisis, joblessness, the elderly facing solitude, those subject to domestic violence, those in prison as well as grieving families unable to bid farewell to deceased members, victims of the virus.