DOH opens Hopeline to prevent suicides

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suicide20160920THE Department of Health (DOH) marked National Suicide Prevention Awareness Day last Tuesday with the Manila launch of its Hopeline, a phone-based counseling service for any individual suffering from crisis and depression.

The DOH, in partnership with the Natasha Goulborn Foundation (NGF), World Health Organization (WHO) and Globe Communications officially opened the ‘Hopeline Project’ at a news conference highlighting the global problem of suicide.

The Hopeline Project was originally started several years ago by the NGF and Globe Communications, but has since become a project overseen by the DOH. It was launched last year in Cebu after data from the NGF hopeline based here in Manila revealed that majority of the callers were from the Cebu area.

The World Health Organization estimates that over 800,000 people die by suicide each year, which is an average of about one person every 40 seconds. Up to 25 times as many more people make a suicide attempt. The tragic ripple effect means that there are many people who have been bereaved by suicide or have been close to someone who has tried to take his or her own life.

The main causes of suicide attempts according to the WHO are lovelife problems, family abuse, divorce or separation, loneliness, aging and gender issues.

“Connect, Communicate, Care” was theme of the 2016 World Suicide Prevention Day. These three words are the heart of the suicide prevention, the DOH said.

The Hopeline Project is part of an initiative of the national health department to bridge the gap in the mental health services in the country.

“I am pleased to present the present the country’s national suicide hotline to our fellow Filipinos. Finally, there’s a hotline for us to call when we are having psychological and emotional issues. We are very optimistic that we can fully implement Hopeline and address mental health issues in a very innovative way.” Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial said.

The DOH and WHO pointed out, however, that suicide is fortunately a lesser problem in the Philippines than in most of the world, although it is still treated as a serious issue. According to WHO statistics, the Philippines ranked 150 out of 170 countries in terms of suicide rates as of 2012. This estimated number of suicides in 2012 was 2,558 (550 females, 2008 male) or a suicidal rate of 2.9 per 100,000 population. This is lower than the annual global age-standardized suicide rate of 11.4 per 100,000 population (15.0 for males and 8.0 for females). The Philippines also has the lowest suicide rate among Asean member-states.

The Health chief said that unfortunately, in low-income and middle-income countries like the Philippines, there is a lot of stigma attached to mental health and therefore there is a need for initiatives and actions for it to be addressed.

The Hopeline Project also includes campus caravans for schools and universities as part of its awareness campaign to help remove the stigma from mental health issues. The NGF is the main organizer of the caravan initiative.

“The families and friends of people suffering from depression are equally important, and they need to know and understand the illness to enable them to respond and provide constructive support to their loved ones during the difficult times. Let us work hand in hand to deliver the proper help to them,” Ubial said.

Hopeline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and can be reached at the following numbers: Via landline at (02) 804-HOPE (4673); by mobile phone at 0917-558-HOPE (4673) or by dialing 2919, a toll-free number for all Globe and TM subscribers.

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