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Philippines: Church's message of hope sought by government

Government officials in the Philippines are asking for the Church’s help in addressing rising cases of suicide and depression as the country continues to deal with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

By Vatican News

Speaking to reporters, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said, “[We] respectfully request our spiritual leaders to bring this much-needed message of hope to our suffering countrymen in order to stave off more incidents of self-destruction.”

The Justice Secretary, who is also a member of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), said they had asked the  Catholic Church and other denominations for their assistance to provide counseling and guidance to those suffering from depression and distress as the pandemic continues.

Minister Guevarra said he had spoken with Secretary Carlito Galvez, chief implementer of the IATF national task force, about “the alarming increase in the number of suicides during these pandemic times.”

Challenging times

The rise in suicides and depression is being blamed on the economic fallout due to the pandemic.  The period of lockdown has also led to feelings of isolation and anxiety.

The World Health Organisation describes mental health as “a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and can make a contribution to his or her community.”

According to the WHO, there has been a drastic increase in mental health disorders in the country since the start of the outbreak.

In a recent study, the health body said, “Thinking of whether life will ever return to normal, and how one will survive amid the pandemic, are some of the questions making ordinary Filipinos very anxious.”

“Likewise, questions like how will one survive economically and financially amid a pandemic; the sudden changes in everyday life and how to cope with them; the unremitting fear of being infected, the fear of dying from the virus, or the fear that a family member or relative might be infected with COVID-19 and die, and the fear of not being able to receive medical treatment in time are also playing on the minds of many Filipinos.”

As part of its public health response, WHO says it “has worked with partners to develop a set of new materials on the mental health and psychosocial support aspects of COVID-19.”

Covid Hopeline already in place

One diocese that is already providing assistance to those struggling with anxiety and depression in these uncertain times is the Diocese of Kaloohan in Metro Manila which has set up a phone in counseling service known as “Covid Hopeline”.

During the months of lockdown in the Philippines, the National Centre for Mental Health reported a significant increase in the number of people experiencing mental health issues as a result of the pandemic.

26 August 2020, 15:51