Home Equality & Justice Philippine church official calls for ‘collective help’ to address mental health

Philippine church official calls for ‘collective help’ to address mental health

The head of the Episcopal Commission on Health Care of the Catholic bishops’ conference in the Philippines called on the faithful to show a “collective” effort to address mental health issues.

Father Rodolfo Vicente Cancino made the call during an online forum on “psychosocial support” for people in the midst of the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic.

“I’d like to call everyone collectively [to help],” he said on July 14.

The priest said families, schools, organizations, and the Church should be together in their perspectives and approach on psychological issues.



He said reminded the public that mental health is “also a need” that should be prioritized during the pandemic.

“Now is the time that we give much importance to mental health issues,” said Father Cancino, adding that the illness affects all genders and ages.

The priest noted that cases of depression and suicide are rising in the Philippines.

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A report released last month by Oxfam, and international aid agency, noted that 43 percent of women surveyed across five countries reported feeling more anxious, depressed, isolated, overworked, or ill because of the coronavirus crisis.

The polling shows that while men have also taken on more care work during the pandemic, the care workload continues to fall disproportionately on women.

At least 43 percent of the 3,558 women surveyed reported suffering more anxiety, depression, lack of rest and sleep and physical illnesses because of increased unpaid care work caused by the pandemic.

A World Health Organization report noted that the Philippines has a 2.4 suicide rate per 100,000 for men and 1.7 for women.

Although the Philippines has one of the lowest suicide rates in the world, its rates are increasing, according to the WHO.

A man prays outside of the closed and empty Antipolo Cathedral during the lockdown due to the new coronavirus outbreak, April 4. (shutterstkc.com photo)

The National Center for Mental Health said their hotline noted an increase in the number of calls since the start of the pandemic.

Lawyer Dennis Gorecho, head of the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices, said suicide reports due to depression are “sad manifestations of the negative mental health effects” of the pandemic.

He said pandemic anxiety can be overwhelming, “and if not handled properly may become emotional, physical and economic catastrophes.”

Gorecho said in an article posted online that although suicide incidents can be considered as “isolated cases,” it cannot be denied that “emotional and financial stressors are well-recognized risk factors for suicide.”

“For many seafarers, the primary source of their depression is initially connected with repatriation issues, as they wait for news about the schedule of their journey home and see their families again,” he said.



Father Cancino his office has catered to several cases of people struggling with mental health issues.

The Church body has established “Kaibigan Response Centers” that utilizes a referral mechanism to specialized partners and health practitioners.

The Church’s mental health program also caters on the assessment of substance abuse, elderly care consultation, and geriatric mental health care.

It has also formed a team of “barefoot counselors,” registered counselors based in communities, especially in urban poor areas.

The country’s Mental Health Law was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on June 21, 2018.

It provides a rights-based mental health approach and a comprehensive framework for the implementation of optimal mental healthcare in the country.

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