Lack of programs on youth depression observed by DOH

A HUGE amount of effort should be put into mental health programs targetting young people who are vulnerable to depression. Department of Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said there remain to be many adolescents who find it difficult to access care.

In a statement released during the recent World Health Day, Ubial raised the need for discussions about this mental health issue. According to DOH, the number of people living with depression—which has fatal consequences like suicide—has grown by 18 percent between 2005 and 2015.

“Depression can happen to anyone,” Ubial said. “The feeling of sadness coupled with losing interest in things one usually enjoy often times being unable to carrying out ordinary daily tasks and lasting more than two weeks, are the tell-tale signs one most likely is suffering from depression.”

Ubial encouraged the public to use the mental health hotline DOH has designated for this called HOPELINE numbers: 2919 (toll free), 0917-HOPE (4673) and 02-558-(HOPE).

DOH records show that about 600 of the 3,400 calls from this hotline were those by people who needed assistance from depression. Almost 500 calls were also related on depression-induced suicide. There were also some 400 callers who sought help from stress and another hundred expressing suicide.

Ubial hopes to improve facilities of the hotline to trace patients and refer them for consultations.

DOH spokesperson Enrique Tayag said studies are also being conducted that looks into social media and online bashing as a factor that contributes to depression cases.

Here in Davao City, Councilor Mary Joselle Villafuerte said law, budget and manpower are roadblocks to effective mental health programs. Villafuerte is authoring an ordinance that she hopes can institutionalize mental healthcare in the city. It’s still due for a second reading.

She said the ordinance will create a mental health unit for the city and allow designated medical personnel to reach out to vulnerable youths. This psychologist will make rounds in schools, she said.

The ordinance hopes to adopt “an integrated and comprehensive approach to the development of the city’s mental health care delivery system.”

The system aims to deliver appropriate services and interventions—from care to protection and treatment—to those with mental illnesses and disability.

Villafuerte also hopes that the ordinance will also promote a shift from a hospital based system to a strengthened community based mental health care delivery system. This will allow more people to access services in their areas.

Villafuerte said she is also eyeing to reactivate the dormant barangay council for the protection of children and equip barangay workers with skills to address this problem in the local level.

“We have to go to the grassroots because when these mental health issues reach the city level, it be too late [to be addressed],” Villafuerte said. She said to make this possible, she wants for the city to increase health budget from eight percent to 15.

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