The number of people with mental health problems in Tacloban City is growing and has prompted the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) to coordinate with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in helping typhoon survivors deal with their loss.
Val Aguilar, PRC head of operations for Task Force Yolanda, said more people are being spotted roaming in the city’s Magsaysay Boulevard, clutching some possessions left behind by their loved ones who died when Super Typhoon Yolanda devastated entire communities in Eastern Visayas in November last year.
“Every week, two or three new people who were not seen before would [be seen on the streets]. Some carry bags. They will open [their bags]and bring out things, and they will keep on talking to their things,” Aguilar said.
He said many of these people continue looking for their missing loved ones along the shore.
Aguilar said the PRC has volunteered to work with the DSWD in bringing Yolanda survivors with mental problems to care centers where they will be given medication and undergo psychosocial therapy to help them recover from their grief.
Records from the DSWD showed that the number of persons with mental problems had grown to 200. The PRC was able to assist one patient who was eventually hired as driver.
“We gave him a psychosocial treatment. He was told about the lessons in life and that he has to move on,” the PRC official said.
Aguilar added that the city government and the DSWD had discussed ways on how to address the mental health problems in Tacloban.
Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) said the mental health problems have been observed among typhoon survivors as they continue to grieve and deal with the long-term impact of the loss of their loved ones, material possessions and jobs.
“Six months after the event, we are seeing the emergence of mental health problems in communities with people coming to terms with the enormity of their loss, whether of loved ones, homes or livelihoods,” Dr. Julie Hall, WHO country representative, earlier said.
Dr. Alice Ruth, head of the WHO-Philippines’ Alert, Control, and Eradicate Disease team, said the mental health status of typhoon survivors should be monitored by local government units.