ON A Monday morning two weeks ago, a woman jumped to her death from the fourth floor of a mall in Mandaluyong City. A day after in a university in the City of Manila, a woman allegedly removed her shoes before jumping off the twentieth floor of a building. They were both students, both teenagers perhaps. They are both young, too young.
There is a silent crisis among young people today.
These reports call attention to the urgent but often neglected concern on the mental health of young people. Some of the major red flags in the 2015 National Youth Assessment Study (NYAS) are findings on the mental health of the Filipino youth. The respondents in the study are young Filipinos 15 to 30 years old from all the regions of the country.
According to the 2015 NYAS, 26 percent of respondents have thought at least once that life is not worth living. The figure is very alarming because this means that one in five Filipino youth may have experienced severe depression and anxiety. The study also reported that 20% of the youth respondents reported extreme emotional distress. The already alarming incidence of depression and distress is further aggravated by the lack or, most of the time, absence of access of young people to support mechanisms and services for mental health problems. This is further worsened by the social stigma associated with seeking professional help.
The complex and complicated mental health situation of the Filipino youth is now manifested in tragedy after tragedy. Every time we lose a young person to suicide, we are reminded painfully of our collective failure to heed their cry for help.
NYAS 2015 reported 14 percent of young people in the country considered taking their life and have engaged in steps to push through with it. Among the youth age sub-groups, incidence is highest among youth-children 15 to 17 years old.
The Global School-Based Health Survey 2011 of the World Health Organization showed that 16 percent of 13 to 15 year-old students in the country considered attempting suicide. Thirteen percent have attempted suicide one or more times during the past year.
The incidence of depression and suicide among young people in the Philippines reveals a very problematic mental health situation in the country. Mental health is an indispensable pillar of adolescent and youth health and wellbeing. Mental health is also very crucial to youth development.
Inadequate does not even begin to describe the resources for mental health in the country. The magnitude of the problem is extremely disproportionate to availability of and access to mental health programs and services. Take for example the number of psychiatrists nationwide, there are only 522 practicing in the country. In the field of psychiatry, the patient-to-doctor ratio is a staggering one for every 200,000 Filipinos.
Mental health should not remain in the margins of national priorities. It is about time that the state and society heed the cries for help.
(To be continued)