A bit from the man’s tale leaked out. His brother was shot dead and perhaps out of disenfranchised grief, the fellow took to the Argao town parish and in high dudgeon felled the saints early morning of May 12, 2021. Witnesses said he knocked over St. Raphael, breaking one of the poor archangel’s gypsum wings, and went on to smash open St. Michael the Archangel’s glass casement. Never a moment of divine englightenment fell on him; the Argao police eventually arrested him. Station desk officer Howard Minopa later said the man reportedly became emotionally and mentally unstable after the latter’s sibling was shot dead. He had to be brought to the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center for psychiatric care. The church spared the lost sheep of accountability, although the latter’s relatives volunteered to repay.
Two days before the fall of the two plaster archangels, a woman hurled herself off the Marcelo Fernan Bridge; the impacting sound of her body against the sea even registered in the police’s security cameras. The responding maritime police had to seek the help of a fisherman who happened to be nearby to go ahead, save the woman. All the witnessing souls that day, in fact, save her, she survived the fall. She walked up to the bridge’s summit and once there, she jumped. But it’s the back story that is most crucial.
The Argao and bridge stories are but two of the multitude of tales out there of poor souls who simply lost it. In fact, there is no formal telling of the scale and breadth of the mental state of the Filipino populace. In 2020, the Department of Health National Mental Health Program reported at least 3.6 million Filipinos as having “mental conditions, based on the national prevalence study on mental, neurological and substance (MNS) use disorders. The figure only covers those three conditions, and a full spectrum report is yet to be done this year.
The DOH data showed around 1,145,871 diagnosed cases of depression, followed by alcohol use disorder at 874,145. Drug use disorder came third at 520,614 and schizophrenia at 213,422. From March to October 2020, the DOH’s crisis hotline received an average of 32 to 37 calls per day.
An older survey by the Dangerous Drugs Board national survey on drug abuse had a drug prevalence of 2.3 percent among Filipinos aged 10 to 69, or an estimated 1.8 million drug users.
In 2011, the World Health Organization Global School-Based Health Survey reported that in the Philippines, around 16 percent of students between 13-15 years old have at one time or another considered attempting suicide and 13 percent have actually attempted suicide one or more times during the past year.
Another study in 2011 revealed that the incident of suicide in males increased from .23 to 3.59 per 100,000 between 1984 and 2005, while among females was an increase from .12 to 1.09 per 100,000 individuals. A DOH 2003 study also showed “intentional self-harm” as the ninth leading cause of death among the 20-24 years old.
What is worrisome is that there is a paucity of wide-scale studies on the state of mental health in the country in epidemiological terms. Every once in a while, a trickle of tales like the Argao and bridge stories surface on media, and suddenly we ask, although rather only fleetingly, about the state of mental health among our citizens. And then we go about our lives until the next surprise.