FOURTEEN suicides in Baguio City have been confirmed since the imposition of community quarantine, making mental health a top concern in the mountain city.
Dr. Donna Tubera-Panes of the City Health Services Office said 18 suicide cases have been recorded from January to July this year.
Tubera said the opening of parks and the eventual easing of restrictions to the economy may mitigate the mental health issues residents are going through.
Dr. Faridah Kristi Wetherick, project coordinator of Saint Louis University (SLU) Sunflower Child and Youth Wellness Center, said there are multiple factors that may explain suicidal cases and the quarantine could be one factor mainly due to increased feelings of social isolation and sense of helplessness especially when there are strict rules in a locked down area.
"Easing of restrictions may not really answer the problem of suicide or self-harm because of the possible persistent feelings of uncertainty even post-quarantine. During uncertain times, individuals tend to ruminate a lot which leads to over-worrying or intense anxiety and depression, which are strongly linked with suicidal tendencies," Wetherick said.
She said other suicide-related factors include fear of being infected, which leads to panic attacks especially in "hotbed" areas and economic difficulties (e.g., loss of jobs, loss of income). At high risk for suicidal behavior are those with pre-existing psychiatric or psychological disorders (diagnosed or undiagnosed) and those who are living alone and with limited support system, as well as those with physical symptoms (Covid-19 or non-Covid related).
The Baguio City Police Office confirmed that people involved in suicide cases recorded from January to August were two minors and 12 adults.
Wetherick said a way to those in distress and those who might need professional help is to give physical and emotional presence. Caring, motivational words of concern may help ease feelings of isolation and advises to stay connected and maintain communication with family, friends and co-workers, she added.
"Another way to help is to know when and how to access professional help. Never self-diagnose. For vulnerable individuals, identify a support person who can be contacted in case of emergency. Families need to be vigilant in monitoring behaviors of at-risk children (sleep and eating problems, extreme mood swings, self-harm behaviors), lastly help the person identify coping strategies that work with hobbies, physical workouts, meditation or prayer," she said.
For parents or guardians seeking consultation about managing emotional distress or their children's behavioral concerns, contact SLU Sunflower Child and Youth Wellness Center at 446-5664 or 0915 541 5501.
For other mental health support services, contact the Philippine Mental Health Association Cordillera Chapter Inc. and the BGHMC Psychiatry Mental Health Support and Services through their Facebook (FB) page.
Helplines are also open in the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children, the nearest police station, or call DSWD-Cordillera at 442-7917.