After receiving ‘inaccesibility’ claims from distressed callers, the Philippines’ 24/7 depression and suicide hotline cited internal glitches caused the “busy lines” over their hotlines.
Hopeline, a suicide prevention program developed by the Department of Health (DOH), together with the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation in 2016, said in a report by Inquirer that the hotline is now working.
However, it was down over “the past weeks…due to system repair and technical issues.”
In a Rappler report, Mila Rolinas, Hopeline’s program consultant, said, “callers will experience a busy line when all lines are taken especially during peak hours. There are only 12 responders answering the calls.”
Dr. Bernardino Vicente, chief of the National Center for Mental Health, added that Hopeline has “several numbers.”
“Hindi lang naman isang number ang number ng Hopeline. We have several numbers kasi we anticipate na one thunder lang, puwedeng bumagsak ‘yung isang line. We have lines that are operated by PLDT, and lines that are operated by Globe (Hopeline does not have just one number. We have several numbers because we anticipate that during bad weather, phone lines could go down),” Rappler reported, quoting Vicente
On its website, there are three hotlines that callers may opt to call: (02) 804-HOPE (4673); 0917 558 4673 and; 2919 (toll-free number for all Globe and TM subscribers).
Distressed callers expressed their ire over social media.
Following a failed attempt to reach out for help, Ligia Daroy expressed her disappointment about Hopeline on Twitter.
“Suicide hotline answered, ‘Sorry. Business hours are now closed.’ Good job Philippines,” wrote Daroy.
In a report by Rappler, Daroy said she called the hotline around 8 p.m. on July 5 but got an automated voice message saying, “Sorry. Business hours are only from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.”
“I was depressed. I thought all of my friends are tired of listening to me so I called Hopeline,” Daroy told Rappler.
She further stressed the potential harm of not being able to reach someone with suicidal tendencies whenever they needed help the most.
“What if it was someone who was actually ready to jump off a building, tapos ganoon ‘yung maririnig mo (then you will hear something like that)?” she added.
A woman named Abby who claimed to have experienced unsatisfactory service from Hopeline replied to Daroy’s post.
“They answered one Sunday ‘Sorry nasa mass ako now ah pero may hospital dyan malapit (Sorry I am in mass now but there is a hospital near there),” she said.
Abby added in a separate post, “After that, she gave the numbers of St Luke’s and East Ave’s ER. I was alone. Inside my room. Breaking down. Can you imagine?”
In defense, Vicente said that it is unlikely that a Hopeline staff member would answer in a way as described by the complaints posted over social media.
Definitely, hindi mag-a-answer ‘yung staff namin ng, ‘Sorry, nasa simbahan ako’ or ‘Sorry, out of line kami.’ I don’t think any of our staff ay mag-a-answer ng ganoon (Definitely, our staff would not answer, “Sorry, I’m at church,” or “Sorry, our lines are down.” I don’t think any of our staff would answer like that),” he explained.
Vicente stressed that Hopeline responders are “well-trained individuals whose areas of expertise are in the behavioral sciences.”
“Hopeline responders are trained professionals and a standard operating procedure is a must do for each case handled. We are also aware of the trending Twitter and Facebook posts and we are now looking into this matter. Rest assured that Hopeline will continue to be of service to the Filipino people,” said Vicente.
Mental illness in the Philippines is considered a “silent killer.” In 2012 alone, 2,558 cases of suicide were reported from mental health issues. In the latest study of the National Center for Mental Health, suicide is projected at a rate of 2.5 for men and 1.7 for women in a 100,000 population.
In May, the Senate approved the Senate Bill No. 1354 or the Mental Health Act of 2017, which aims to” comprehensively address the Filipinos’ mental health needs and ensure that rights as persons with mental health concerns are protected and secured.” (Jennifer Soriano/AJPress)