CBCP health ministry to help ‘distressed, depressed’ faithful

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GIVEN the growing number of Filipinos suffering from anxiety and depression amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is set to expand its services to address mental health woes.

In a radio interview, CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Health Care vice chairman Bishop Oscar Florencio said parishes and dioceses will begin to provide mental health services.

"Because of the pandemic, it is not just a problem on food and unemployment but also mental health and the prevailing depression among the people," Florencio said over Church-run Radio Veritas.

"This is why we opted to create a network. We must do something about this," he added.

CBCP vice president Bishop Pablo David seconded Florencio saying it is part of the mission of the clergy to help those who are distressed and depressed.

He said being with the needy people forms part of the priest's ministry of accompaniment.

"Those stressed, suffering from depression, abused, traumatized are growing. This is where the Church needs to be able to help," David, who is also the Kalookan bishop, said.

"It is related to our mission, the ministry of accompaniment," added the bishop.

David said this is the reason the Kalookan Diocese launched its "Covid-19 Hopeline,” a counselling service hotline that is being manned by mental health experts and priests.

Earlier, the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) reported that there has been an increase in the number of calls that their crisis hotline has been getting since the start of the pandemic.

Between March and May 2020, he said there has been an average of 30 to 35 daily calls, or 953 monthly calls.

This is higher compared to the 13 to 15 daily calls, or 400 monthly calls, from May 2019 to February 2020.

In Cebu, Msgr. Joseph Tan, Archdiocese of Cebu spokesman, said given the current situation, there is a need for a helpline for people, especially those who are depressed.

"It's a good suggestion and I hope the archdiocese can carry it out. Let’s look at the archdiocese’s response in the next few days," Tan said in a mix of Cebuano and English, referring to the CBCP announcement.

However, he said counseling will have to be done either via telephone or online due to the social distancing requirement.

He said the archdiocese has yet to start a similar initiative.

At the start of the Covid-19 crisis in March, Tan said some priests in Cebu initiated a project for mental health. One of those involved was the spiritual director of the Pope John XXIII Minor Seminary, Fr. Arnel Dionaldo, who has a background in counseling.

Tan said there was a time the group provided online counseling. (HDT, WBS)


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