As Filipinos continue to endure the harmful effects of COVID-19 in the country, opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima urges the government to also attend to the mental health needs of the public and include it in its responses against the pandemic.
De Lima made the call after recognizing that the anxieties brought by COVID-19 is also taking its toll to many Filipinos affected by the crisis.
“As the global COVID-19 pandemic pushes further into 2020, the collective feelings of fear, anxiety and sorrow are beginning to affect many of our countrymen,” she said.
“A new concern is surfacing — the mental and psychological health of people. If not immediately addressed, it will be like poison that will creep through the lives of many in ways that could sometimes be more lethal,” she added.
Starting March 16, the whole island of Luzon and select other cities in the Philippines have been in lockdown, paralyzing the country’s economy and affecting the livelihood of most Filipinos – many of which are daily wage earners belonging to the informal sector.
In Pampanga, there is a report of a suicide attempt of a homeless man, who, according to his friends and relatives, has not been able to feed his family for days because of lack of work during the lockdown period.
Other foreign reports indicated an increase of suicide cases related to the pandemic. In Italy, a healthcare worker took her own life after contracting COVID-19, fearing that she would spread the virus to her family.
Similarly, a finance minister from Germany committed suicide after becoming “deeply worried” about the possible economic fallout in his country because of the novel coronavirus crisis.
In light of this, the lady Senator from Bicol said that the government leaders should also include mental health measures in its national response plan to address the “stress and anxiety that pushes everyone closer to the brink of despair”.
“Halo-halong lungkot, kaba, takot, paranaoia at pag-aalinlangan ang nananaig sa bawat mamamayang Pilipino at patuloy pa itong mananaig … hangga’t wala pang lunas sa malubhang sakit na ito at patuloy na tumataas ang bilang ng mga kaso ng COVID-19 sa ating bansa,” De Lima said.
“Proper and effective implementation of R.A. No. 11036, or the “Mental Health Act” ought to be as an integral part of the national strategy against COVID-19,” she added.
The World Health Organization also pointed out that mental health and other psychosocial considerations should be given to those suffering from stress during the COVID-19 outbreak, including healthcare workers and other frontliners, children, the elderly, and those in isolation.
As chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, De Lima has championed causes to uplift the welfare of the most vulnerable sectors of society, especially the poor.
As primary sponsor and author in the Senate of Republic Act 11291, otherwise know as the “Magna Carta of the Poor”, De Lima reminded that the law now guarantees the rights of the poor to “the highest attainable standard of mental and physical health”, among others.
“I pray for all our kababayans – may the Filipino fighting spirit win over the dark thoughts that loom our minds, and may we offer compassion and kindness to one another during these trying times,” she said.
“Let’s please check on one another, even those who we think are the strong ones. While obliged to keep physical distance from each other, may we not be socially disconnected from one another,” she added. (30)