Suicide and depression | Inquirer Opinion

Suicide and depression

/ 06:46 AM August 28, 2020

When the government nominated October as the Mental Health Month, it was in 1994. There was no visible problem with suicides and depression then. It was in cooperation with the World Health Organization which had seen the necessity in a growing number of countries in the world. Sadly, in hindsight, it became like a magnet or a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Now, inside a pandemic, the Secretary of Justice reports the alarm of the IATF about the rising rate of suicides and asks the religious sector to help address the phenomenon. Unfortunately, the present status of increasing suicides in the country and the recognizable pattern of depression in both private and public schools is an indictment of society as a whole and its adult population in particular. The crumbling psychological framework of the youth is not born of the pandemic; it has been building up steadily over the years.


The government represented by the IATF and the Secretary of Justice would do well to reflect on what they term a phenomenon. If they are asking help from the religious sector, they may wish to examine themselves to determine the extent of their own contribution to rising numbers of both attempted and successful suicides. In an authority-centric society, the government cannot be spared as a major factor of suicides.

The same as the religious sector. The Catholic Church and other minority religions are themselves traditional symbols of authority. Their dictation and guidance have great influence on their faithful. Therefore, they, too, cannot be spared as a major factor of suicides.


Schools follow the pecking order of critical factors that influence the pattern of depression and suicides. In a world so sadly dependent on the economic status of people, parents rush their children to school for two reasons. One is for children to get formal education. The other is to have responsible adults take care of the children while the parents are at work.

Let us run through the list which, naturally and unfortunately, begins with parents and the adults of families. They are the most immediate symbols of authority and examples to the children under their care. If the growing-up environment in the home weakens instead of strengthens the sense of security of children, the subsequent environments such as community, church, school, and government will start with weak wards.

Depression and suicide clearly relate, and proportionately so, to one’s sense of security. A person’s journey from childhood to maturity begins with the level of security that a person enjoys or lacks. The experience of security is the greatest builder of a human being’s emotional and psychological framework. If the children do not experience a high level of security at home, the school has to do double-time to fill in the lack. That is assuming they can.

That, however, is not the school’s main focus. It is to teach, to educate. In fact, the school has to be keenly aware of the quality of students they receive from the home. Without an intelligent and sensitive reading of the kind of children they accept into the schools, the academe would not have a sound starting point and comprehensive curriculum. They can try to copycat what more progressive societies do, but what comes out is bastardized when our students do not have the proper background.

Beyond the homes are the respective communities where the families reside. Communities, then, are the next influence on children. They can affirm the teachings of the home or they can contradict them. After intuitively learning how to survive in the home, the child has to adjust to the community conditions. When there is a deep contrast between the values and behavior in the home and in the community, the child’s experience of security is weakened and confused. We can imagine what goes on there in the overcrowded colonies of the urban poor, or of informal settlers.

Usually, schools are positive and empowering experiences for children, usually. But schools themselves are now experiencing the rising cases of the mentally depressed and the rise of suicides – and can hardly cope. Teachers are not automatically effective guidance counselors; some may even need their own counseling. It is in the schools, however, that the patterns of depression and suicides are most visible because children congregate there. Sadly, depression and suicide cases are not what schools prepare for as a rule. Behavioral anomalies are not core competencies of academic institutions.

The State and the Church are critical holders of power, albeit in seemingly different fields. Power is power whether it is familial, social, academic, economic or political. Its fundamental dynamics are the same. When there are serious conflicts in the religious field, in the political field, the coping mechanisms of the young are put to the test. When their experience of security is weak, the divisiveness in their religious and political environments weaken and confuse them all the more. In our present state of things, defined to a substantial extent by the wars we are engaged in, from the constant war between good and evil, the war of conflicting religious and moral beliefs, the fierce competition among schools and businesses, the war against drugs, the war against terrorists, and, now, the war against Covid-19.


There is undue pressure on the young because there is that undue pressure on adults, too, especially the majority who have no economic security. It is almost a throwback to the centuries of colonization when the universal mode of control over conquered peoples was to divide and rule them. Divisiveness and acrimony in our own society produce similar results – a dependent, forced-to-be partisan population.

We are here with all of these unfavorable conditions. Yet, we have to pursue our dreams and endure any painful struggle along the way. We cannot succumb to our many trials and lower the bar of our aspirations. We must think of our young and feed them opportunity after opportunity to experience a solid sense of security. Nothing is more important.

Subscribe to our opinion newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Center for Mental Health hotline at 0917-899-USAP (8727); (02) 7-989-USAP; or 1553 (landline to landline, toll-free).

Read Next
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: Depression, suicide
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.

Subscribe to our opinion columns

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and
acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

© Copyright 1997-2022 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.