ILOILO – Suicide has claimed more lives than the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the first half of the year here. Gov. Arthur Defensor Jr. has expressed alarm. “Seryoso ini. The community quarantine may be an added circumstance that further weighed down some individuals, particularly our youth,” he said. Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) member Matt Palabrica sounded alarm over rising suicide cases in the province as early as October 2019. The most common methods resorted to were hanging, chemical poisoning, shooting with a gun, and even willful drowning, he said. In addition, experiencing conflict, disaster, violence, abuse, or loss and a sense of isolation are strongly associated with suicidal behavior, according to WHO. Every year close to 800,000 people take their own lives and there are many more people who attempt suicide, it said. Most of those who killed themselves this year were between 30 to 39 years old (eight cases); 42 to 49 years old (six cases); 11 to 19 years old (five cases); 20 to 29 years old (three cases); and 10 years old and younger (two cases), data from the IPPO showed. The Iloilo Police Provincial Office (IPPO) recorded 28 suicide cases from Jan. 1 to June 17. At three cases each, Cabatuan and Passi City have the most incidents among the 43 local government units in the province. * early identification, treatment and care of people with mental and substance use disorders, chronic pain and acute emotional distress “This will be part of our COVID-19 rehabilitation program,” said Defensor. * reporting by media in a responsible way There are a number of measures that can be taken at population, sub-population and individual levels to prevent suicide and suicide attempts. WHO listed the following: It also lamented the stigma particularly surrounding mental disorders and suicide. It means, it said, that many people thinking of taking their own lives or who have attempted suicide are not seeking help and are therefore not getting the help they need. But even prior to PSWDO’s crafting of a mental health support program, the provincial government was already reaching out to youngsters, especially the troubled ones, through the Provincial Population Office’s multipurpose teen centers. * follow-up care for people who attempted suicide and provision of community support/PN “The prevention of suicide has not been adequately addressed due to a lack of awareness of suicide as a major public health problem and the taboo in many societies to openly discuss it,” according to WHO. By far the strongest risk factor for suicide is a previous suicide attempt, according to WHO. Suicide was the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year-olds globally in 2016, according to WHO. Detailed information about the suicides, most especially among the youth, is needed, he said, to get a clearer picture so that appropriate interventions “targeted at the youth” could be introduced “like counseling, youth activities that include sports, co-curricular and extra-curricular activities.” The COVID-19 pandemic and the concomitant quarantine restrictions on the movement of people may have further burdened the suicide victims, the governor theorized. The World Heal Organization (WHO) considers suicide “a serious public health problem” but preventable with timely, evidence-based interventions. While the link between suicide and mental disorders (in particular, depression and alcohol use disorders) is well established in high-income countries, WHO said many suicides happen impulsively in moments of crisis with a breakdown in the ability to deal with life stresses, such as financial problems, relationship break-up or chronic pain and illness. “The figures are alarming. Last year by the month of November there were already over 70 suicide cases. We’re only half way through 2020 but we already have 28 cases,” said Defensor. * reducing access to the means of suicide (e.g. pesticides, firearms, certain medications) For the whole of 2019, the IPPO recorded 78 incidents of suicide. Twenty-four of these were committed by those aging between 11 to 19 years old. In 2018, it recorded 65 suicide cases. It is a counseling-focused program to be carried out in coordination with local government units. Palabrica appealed for collective action from the provincial government, school and health authorities, and the police, among others. * introducing alcohol policies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol Defensor said the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO) headed by Dr. Neneth Pador came up with an intervention it called PRIME or Psycho Social Response for Ilonggos Towards More Resilience Mind and Emotion. * school-based interventions On the other hand, data from the Department of Health (DOH) Region 6 showed Iloilo province with five deaths from 34 COVID-19 cases as of yesterday. During this quarantine period, people below 21 years old and those 60 years old and older are prohibited from leaving their homes. They are considered most vulnerable to the disease. * training of non-specialized health workers in the assessment and management of suicidal behavior Teenagers can connect with peer helpers and spend leisure time with materials and facilities available in these centers based in various public schools across the province.