Priests should make themselves more available to people, especially during the pandemic.
This was the call of Father Melvin Castro, spiritual director of Pro-life Philippines, following a recent report from the Philippine Statistics Authority that says deaths due to suicide increased last year.
From 2,808 registered deaths due to intentional self-harm in 2019, there were 3,529 cases in 2020.
“People in difficult situation need someone to talk with,” said Father Castro. “And this ‘listening’ apostolate applies to all,” he added.
“We need to be available to those who are in need of someone to talk with,” he said, adding that counselling may be done either face to face or online.
The priest said mental health should never be taken for granted especially during the pandemic.
“In the midst of poverty, unemployment, and sense of hopelessness, care for health must include both physical, mental, and even spiritual,” said Father Castro.
Government officials earlier appealed to churches and religious leaders in the country to provide counsel and guidance to ease people’s anxiety.
Mental health groups and advocates criticized the call, saying it is “downright insulting to mental health professionals in the country.”
The group Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan said “religious institutions have created a long-held malicious narrative about mental health.”
In a statement, the group said religious institutions have contributed to the stigma against mental illness, as many followers believe that those who commit suicide are sent to hell.