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De Lima wants Senate probe on increasing mental health issues amid pandemic

The spike in the number of reported mental health issues amid the COVID-19 pandemic must be looked into by the Senate, according to Senator Leila De Lima on Thursday.

“Everyone right now, from our healthcare frontliners, members of the labor sector, up to those who are staying at home, are all experiencing different levels of grief, stress, confusion and anxiety and it is ultimately our duty to ensure that their mental health are not compromised during a pandemic,” De Lima, detained at Camp Crame, said in Senate Resolution No. 439 filed on June 4.

Strict quarantine protocols have been imposed in various parts of the country since mid-March—shutting down several establishments and mass transportation, and forcing the public to stay at home to prevent the further spread of the virus.

The global phenomenon has also displaced many local and overseas Filipino workers, pushing many families to resort to various belt-tightening measures.

De Lima said the global pandemic "malevolently attacks" every aspect of health as it causes " turmoil of emotions and storms of anxiety."

"Everyone has all the time to be alone with their minds during a pandemic when nothing is certain, and the future is still a blur," she added.

The senator said the implementation of the Mental Health Act or Republic Act No. 11036 must be reviewed to integrate strategies that would be tailored to the COVID-19 situation.

She also underscored that the country has only one psychiatrist for every 250,000 population—a far cry from the ideal ratio of 1:50,000.

Earlier this week, National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) psychiatrist Dr. Bernard Argamosa said the number of distress calls to their 24/7 crisis hotline doubled to an average of 30-35 daily and 953 monthly from March to May this year compared to the average of 13-15 calls daily and 400 monthly from May 2019 to February 2020.

The NCMH USAP hotlines may be reached by the public at 0917 899 8727 and 7-989 8727.

Senator Sonny Angara also urged the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation to review the case rates it offers for the coverage of mental health services. —LDF, GMA News