De Lima alarm over youth suicide incidence, seeks swift passage of Mental Health Bill

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Alarmed at the rising number of suicide incidence among Filipinos, especially among students, Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged House leaders to prioritize the passage into law of the comprehensive mental health bill.

De Lima, a known human rights defender, said she hopes the counterpart measure will be given priority by her colleagues at the House of Representatives when Congress resumes session on Nov. 13.

“We have already witnessed the deaths of many people under Duterte’s bloodthirsty regime and we can’t afford to lose more lives to suicide. We need to confront this disturbing issue affecting our young people,” she said.

While most suicide cases go largely unreported, De Lima acknowledged that the scourge of suicide usually takes a high-profile case before people start conversing about depression and other mental health illnesses.

“Self-inflicted deaths frequently happen among teenagers, children, and even adults who are either suffering from depression or mental health problems. We don’t need to see high statistics or high-profile case to realize that suicide warrants the nation’s serious attention,” she added.

Based on a World Health Organization (WHO) factsheet for 2017, suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15 to 29-year-olds, and 78 percent of global suicides occur in low and middle-income countries.

The age-standardized suicide rate in the Philippines is 5.8 for male, 1.9 for females, and 3.8 for both sexes, WHO also reported.

The Senator from Bicol urged the government to address the pressing need for a comprehensive mental health solution and more intensified suicide prevention program to bring the actual suicide cases down to zero.

“It’s difficult for many to talk about depression and mental illness out in the open for fear of being judged as someone with mental disorder. We need to stop the stigma and invest on health programs and services that would address the issue,” she said.

One in every three Filipinos has a mental health problem, according to University of the Philippines College of Medicine professor emeritus Dr. Lourdes Ignacio. With the country’s population reaching the 110 million mark, she continued, the number of Filipinos who have mental problems could reach 28.48 million.

De Lima also lamented that the country’s supposed national support hotline for depression and suicide prevention–Hopeline– presented by the Department of Health last year, failed to serve its purpose.

“We need to find a solution that is accessible to all that’s why suicide prevention must be intensified and prioritized by the present administration,” she maintained.

To date, the Comprehensive Mental Health Bill has passed on third and final reading at the Senate, while its counterpart measure is in the penultimate stage of its legislative mill at the Lower House.

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