World Suicide Prevention Day: Mental Health Services and Suicide Prevention in the Philippines

Photo: WHO/F. Guerrero

19 September, Manila – Over 800 000 people die from suicide every year affecting the life of these individuals, their loved ones, and communities. Attempted suicide is seen as the most important indicator of future deaths caused by suicide and can result in a significant burden for communities because of the services needed to treat the injury and the psychological and social impact of the behavior on the individual and his/her loved ones.

In 2012, the Philippines had the lowest suicide rate in the Western Pacific Region with more men dying from suicide than women. However, the Philippines also joins the list of the top five countries with a rising suicide rate, “A low suicide rate is not the only thing that matters. The fact that the numbers are increasing is worrisome.” said Dr Dinah Nadera, WHO Philippines technical officer for mental health.

The recent World Suicide Prevention report from the World Health Organization highlights disasters as one of the risk factors which increase a person’s vulnerability to consider suicide. This makes the Philippines more susceptible to rising suicide rates having experienced a slew of natural and man-made disasters in the previous year.

WHO Philippines continues to work in these disaster-stricken areas, mostly in areas affected by typhoon Yolanda which claimed the lives of over six thousand people on November 2013. Together with the Department of Health, International Medical Corps, and other health partners, the WHO has been training health workers to treat a large number of patients in their own community and near their own home using WHO’s Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP) framework.

The mhGAP training program which was launched in January, around areas most affected by Yolanda, includes suicide as one of the priority issues and provides guidance to expand these services to the barangay level. Communities play a critical role in suicide prevention since they can provide social support, engage in follow-up care, fight stigma and support those bereaved by suicide.

While the Philippines has one of the lowest rates of suicide in the world, World Suicide Prevention day reminds us not to ignore the existing vulnerabilities and address the rising numbers. As stated by the Director General of the WHO Dr Margaret Chan, “Every single life lost to suicide is one too many. The way forward is to act together, and the time to act is now.”