Health Secretary Franciso Duque III | ManilaTimes.net photo

The Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday, May 2 launched the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) crisis hotline which aims to help curb the rising suicide prevalence in the Philippines.

According to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, the hotline will be operated by the NCMH 24/7 and will “respond to the needs of those in any mental health crisis, [and] respond to queries on all issues related to mental health and the mental health law.”

The hotline can be reached at 0917-899-USAP (8727) or 0917-989-8727.

In a press conference, Duque explained: “The hotline aims to send a message to those with mental health issues that they are not alone. It’s okay to not be okay… There is hope. Recovery is possible and there should be no shame in getting help.”

Last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15 to 29-year-olds. Over 800,000 people die by suicide each year, a number that translates to one death every 40 seconds. 

NCMH officer-in-charge Allan Troy Baquir, for his part, said the hotline will offer assistance for callers experiencing anxiety and depression as well as health workers who need guidance in handling their patients with mental illness.

The hotline will also help individuals needing mental health assistance related to issues like gender identity and sexual orientation, school and career, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, and violence against women and children.

The operators who would take the calls will assess and classify the risk of callers, according to NCMH, and will refer them to a proper specialist or medical facilities if necessary.

Beverly Azucena, another OIC of the NCMH, also assured that the hotline, which has already been set up with the National Telecommunications Commission, will be able to accommodate about 8 to 10 callers at a time — unlike Hopeline, the national support hotline for depression and suicide prevention, which drew flak in 2017 for supposedly being inaccessible.

Aside from the hotline, the DOH also launched programs under the Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act on Thursday. 

The newly introduced programs aim to help boost children’s health and reduce stunting and malnutrition.

Pregnancy and after birth medical services will also be provided by the DOH to both mothers and infants, Duque said. 

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