'Tara, usap tayo' (let's talk) is the local theme in observance of World Suicide Prevention Day last September 10. It is encouraging people to discuss the issue of suicide openly instead of avoiding talks about it for fear it could aggravate suicidal cases.

"Simple acts of kindness, gentle words of hope, and a listening heart can make all the difference," Secretary of Health Paulyn Ubial said, in speaking at the "Suicide Prevention Run" activity held at the Marikina Sports Complex. Aside from World Suicide Prevention Day, the Department of Health was also commemorating National Suicide Prevention Week.

The worldwide theme for this year's observation is "Take a minute, Change a life." In the Philippines, it was amended as "Take a minute, Change a life. Tara, Usap Tayo" to emphasize the importance of communication in tackling such a sensitive issue.

Health authorities have pointed out time and again that suicide can be prevented. However, it is crucial to understand there is no single approach to resolve an issue as complex as suicide. 

In spite its complexity, talking more openly about it and helping those in distress and who may be prone to thoughts of ending their life, is "a good start to preventing it", according to Secretary Ubial.

Local, global stats

In the Philippines, the latest suicide tally recorded in 2012 showed a total of 2,559 people taking their own lives - 2009 of them male, while females numbered 550.

When the DOH did a test run for its suicide prevention hotline called HOPELINE, in Cebu, there were callers who opened up about relationship problems, parental abuse and separation, divorces, physical and emotional abuse, and feelings of loneliness.

Globally, the number of suicide deaths is pegged at 800,000 annually. It is also the second leading cause of death within the age group 15 to 19, according to the World Health Organization.

The United Nations health agency further noted the likelihood that suicide cases may be under-reported due to stigma.

“There are indications that for each adult who died of suicide there may have been more than 20 others attempting suicide,” WHO said, adding, “Health care services need to incorporate suicide prevention as a core component, [as] early identification and effective management are key to ensuring that people receive the care they need.”

DOH, meanwhile, stressed that people can always #TalkToSomeJuan (talk to someone), provide social and emotional reinforcement, live a positive and healthy lifestyle, and be with supportive family and friends in case they are weighed down by problems or unhealthy feelings and thoughts.

Recognize the signs

While it takes training and experience to handle people who may be thinking of suicide, ordinary people can contribute much to address the issue by being attentive to each other's needs all the time.

At the least, it is helpful to be aware of the warning signs of suicidal thinking, the Health department said. Watch out for an individual withdrawing from friends, or who verbalizes feelings of hopelessness, those who crack unexpected jokes about suicide or engages in self-harm as they could be prone to suicide.

The Health chief reminded the public to "always take suicidal comments very seriously."

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, other signs that could indicate someone may be contemplating suicide include talking about being a burden to others, feeling trapped, experiencing unbearable pain and having no reason to live, increasing alcohol consumption, acting recklessly, withdrawing from activities, isolation, aggression, sleeping too much, humiliation, as well as depression. 

Being attentive to each other's needs is a big help in preventing suicide.

Being attentive to each other's needs is a big help in preventing suicide.


HOPELINE was launched in September 2016, by the DOH, WHO, and the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation. It is a 24/7 suicide prevention hotline manned by responders trained by psychologists and psychiatrists to assist callers.

People can reach a professional for help by dialling (02) 804 4673, 09175584673 or 2919 toll free for Globe and TM subscribers.

“If the person is at a high risk of suicide, ask him or her directly. It is important to discuss the issue openly without expressing fear or negative judgment and remain calm and in control,” according to the department.

Just as important is to never leave persons with suicidal tendencies and to remove anything that can be used to carry out suicide, the DOH reminded.  For those with close relations to a potential suicide victim, it is best to inform the person's immediate family and to have professional help numbers ready.

Suicide awareness among college students

For the National Suicide Prevention Week, the DOH will run a mental health caravan and forum on suicide prevention, in cooperation with the Youth for Mental Health Coalition and MentalHealthPH, the Philippine Psychiatric Association, and Natasha Goulborn Foundation.

Each life taken by one's own hands is a tragedy, the DOH noted, and it leaves behind a profound impact not just on families but communities and the entire nation thus a collaborative effort to prevent suicide is necessary. MIMS 

Read more:

5 reasons why the Philippine Mental Health Act should be enacted into law
World Health Day 2017 focuses on depression, suicide