Family issues, including separation of parents, are one of the causes of suicides among young people, according to experts. (Photo by Angie de Silva)
Mental health experts in the Philippines have voiced alarm about the number of young people committing suicide.
At least six individuals commit suicide every day in the predominantly Catholic country of more than 100 million people.
"While the numbers may appear small, if not insignificant, one life lost is precious enough," said Carmelita Ericta, a former government statistician.
From 2012 to 2016, there were 237 suicide cases among children aged between 10 and 14, according to Ericta.
Of 2,413 suicide cases recorded in 2016, more than 2,000 were male and the rest female, according to the Department of Health.
Dr. Cornelio Banaag Jr., president of the Philippine Mental Health Association, said the common trigger for suicides is stress.
He said there were likely many more unreported cases due to the stigma, or fear of people with suicidal tendencies to be judged.
Banaag said that aside from the "very disturbing" number of young people committing suicide, there is also a growing number of "cutters" among the youth.
"Cutters" are those who opt not to commit suicide but instead cut themselves supposedly to experience some relief from pressure or stress.
"We're not even mentioning people with clinical depression, who are bipolar, or experience extreme mood swings," said Banaag, a psychiatrist.
Families of migrant workers
Church leaders warned that family members of migrant workers might be susceptible to stress and look for a way out of problems.
Father Dario Cabral, chairman of the Diocesan Commission on Family and Life in Malolos Diocese, said young people need to feel a sense of belonging.
"They also look up to their parents, but there is a growing number of dysfunctional families because either the father or mother works abroad," said the priest.
Bishop Joel Baylon of Legazpi, however, said suicidal tendencies among young people these days are not limited to families of overseas workers.
He said there is a need for parents "to really have more time with their children, especially those who may manifest symptoms of depression."
The prelate, who used to head the Episcopal Commission on Youth, said the dialogue could even involve priests and social workers, who should always be available for counseling.
Dr. Amadeo Alinea of the Philippine Psychiatric Association said that although stress can differ for the rich and the poor, it has the same effect.
"Young people who seek professional help seem to be searching for their identity," he said, adding that some even question their faith and leave the church.
Dr. Kathryn Tan of the National Center for Mental Health said services for mental health patients are still lacking, especially in terms of follow-up and appropriate medicines.