Davao's silent struggle
Understanding the surge 
in suicide cases
Photo from Pixabay

Davao's silent struggle Understanding the surge in suicide cases

Davao City has been witness to a troubling surge in documented suicide cases recently. 

While the factual details of these tragedies — how lives are lost — are known, the haunting question of "why" continues to elude our grasp.

The stark reality painted by the World Health Organization's data is alarming: 703,000 lives are lost annually to self-inflicted tragedies, with countless others attempting the same. 

Suicide stands as the fourth leading cause of death among 15–29-year-olds worldwide, a statistic that demands attention and action.

The triggers for these thoughts of self-harm, whether known or hidden, can affect anyone. 

Experts emphasize the multitude of factors contributing to these actions, highlighting the absence of a universal solution to alleviate the pain and suffering experienced by those affected.

Recent incidents in Davao further underscore this grim reality. 

A call center agent tragically jumped off a bridge in Bankerohan on November 15, while just days earlier, an 18-year-old was rescued by the Ecoland Police Station-PS15 at Bolton Bridge due to family problems.

The Philippine Mental Health Association's (PHMA) Davao Chapter has noticed a steady rise in suicide cases from 2016 to 2022, mirroring similar trends in neighboring provinces of the Davao Region. 

The organization reported 53 cases in 2022, involving individuals aged 13 to 71, and within the first four months of 2023, 26 cases emerged in the same age range.

“Intrusive” thoughts

The prevalence of "intrusive" thoughts is evident from the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) hotline's statistics in the Philippines. 

Over 26,000 calls were received from 2019 to August 2021, with 29% of these calls being suicide-related. The highest number of calls recorded was in 2021, with 12,625 calls as of August 2021. 

One individual, identified as "Payton," not his real name as he requested anonymity, navigated the tumultuous waves of isolation during the peak of the pandemic in 2020. 

Isolated in a Davao City boarding house for four months during the start of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in March 2020, Payton found himself wrestling with the weight of contemplating an end to his life. 

He recalled calling his friends, classmates, and family, but there came a time when no one was contactable for “straight six weeks”.

Cut off from his family, his solitude deepened, exacerbated by the fear of stepping outside and falling ill amid the pandemic. These overwhelming circumstances pushed him to contemplate drastic measures. 

“Being alone, I have nothing to talk to, mura ko'g tala kay pandemic, hadlok kaayo mogawas and hadlok pod ko masakit (I feel insane during the pandemic, I am afraid to go out and get sick),” Payton said through Facebook Messenger when asked of his experiences back then.

He eventually discovered mental health hotlines that guided him toward seeking professional help.

Amidst all the overwhelming stress he was grappling with at that time, the thought of ending his own life crossed his mind, until he stumbled upon a Twitter post that mentioned mental health hotlines.

“Before calling NCMH and booking a psychologist that year, I was so overwhelmed by my recurring thoughts. Being away from my family in [Davao Oriental], I was stuck in the city, nothing to talk with but foreign customers and myself, it was very hard-hitting,” he said.

Psychological views

Experts attribute the surge in suicide cases to the recent pandemic, exacerbating underlying mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. 

Societal factors such as lack of social support, economic hardships, peer pressure, and bullying also contribute significantly.

Understanding the nuanced motivations behind these suicidal thoughts poses a significant challenge.

Precious Manliguez, director of PMHA Davao Chapter, emphasized the necessity of investigating why individuals exhibit similar behaviors despite having different motivations, and why they perceive these actions as a viable solution to their circumstances.

“Sensitive man gud ang suicide, dili nato maingon na ang case ni client A and ni client B tungod kay taas ilang suicide ideation, pareho sila og rason ngano sila mu-self-harm (Suicide is a sensitive matter, and we can't simply equate the self-harm cases of clients A and B just because they both have high suicide ideation). In truth, each of them has distinct reasons for their behaviors,” Manliguez said.

She advocates for proactive mental health awareness and support, emphasizing the importance of timely intervention before thoughts escalate into actions.

She said the role of mental health awareness must start at home and in the community.

“Kung ikaw ang immediate family, you know, ikaw ang kabalo sa welfare sa imong kapamilya… among gina-suggest that when they respond, maminaw ta sa ilaha, dili ta maghatag og opinyon assuming na we understand them (If you're part of the immediate family, you're the one who knows your family's well-being. Our suggestion when they come to us is to listen attentively without presuming that we fully comprehend their experiences, refraining from offering opinions),” Manliguez said.

She also said they directly visit barangays, offering tailored mental health lectures that aim to educate without exaggeration, emphasizing the scientific foundation behind mental health disorders and highlighting the genuine manifestations of these conditions.

As communities grapple with the impact of these distressing incidents, mental health professionals, stakeholders, and society at large must intensify efforts to raise awareness, extend support, and actively prevent such tragedies.

For individuals struggling with these overwhelming thoughts, support is available through suicide hotlines: 1553 for Luzon-wide (toll-free), 09663514518/09178998727 for Globe or TM subscribers, and 09086392672 for Smart, Sun, or TNT subscribers. ICE

SunStar Publishing Inc.