To the Editor:
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues worldwide. I read with interest the article, “Action Steps Toward a Culture of Moral Resilience in the Face of COVID-19,” by Gujral et al. (2020), which appeared in the July 2020 issue of the Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services. The authors recommend several interventions that promote well-being in the face of COVID-19. I'd like to add to Gujral et al.'s (2020) findings of the moral responsibility of professionals in helping those who are experiencing mental health problems in the context of the pandemic. Institutions should develop a large-scale support system and intervention hotlines that will cater to the needs of people who are experiencing anxiety, psychological stress, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The World Health Organization (2020) called upon Southeast Asian countries to pay attention to mental health and suicide prevention.
In the Philippines, where 200,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported—the highest in Southeast Asia—the project HopeLine (access https://www.hopeline-nc.org), a suicide prevention and crisis helpline, saw a 200% increase in calls in April 2020 (Nortajuddin, 2020). The Diocese of Kalookan, for example, has created a support helpline for people who are experiencing anxiety, psychological stress, and PTSD (Games, 2020). COVID HopeLine is a phone counseling service of the local church in the Philippines. The service team is composed of mental health experts, priests, and counselors who provide medical, psychological, and moral support for those who are experiencing the psychological impact of COVID-19. Educational institutions in the Philippines have also taken steps to provide free mental health counseling services to students, frontline health providers, and those infected with COVID-19. The De La Salle University, for example, offers telepsychology to those who are experiencing severe stress, anxiety, and psychological issues brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had significant social and psychological effects. Medical experts, such as psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, and counselors, have a moral responsibility to reduce the effects of a mental health crisis. Medical experts, nurses, educators, priests, chaplains, and social workers can also aid in the effort to break the stigma and misconceptions about mental health. Research studies on mental health, suicide prevention, and the current pandemic are needed. Indeed, we need to act collectively to fight the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.