MANILA, Philippines — Around 3.6 million Filipinos are suffering from mental disorders amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to initial results of a Department of Health (DOH) survey.

At a press briefing yesterday, DOH National Mental Health Program manager Frances Prescila Cuevas said at least 3.6 million Filipinos were found to have mental conditions, based on the national prevalence study on mental, neurological and substance use disorders.

Cuevas said the number could go higher as the survey covered only these three selected conditions. The DOH is expecting the “full spectrum of the results” next year.

“There are a lot of mental health issues surrounding the pandemic and a lot of questions on how it affected the mental health of Filipinos,” Cuevas said.

DOH data showed that the most number of calls came from people suffering from depression with 1,145,871 followed by alcohol use disorder with 874,145.

Others are bipolar and drug use disorder with 520,614; epilepsy with 349,058 and schizophrenia with 213,422.

Cuevas noted an alarming spike in the number of calls received by the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) crisis hotline.

The NCMH provided mental health services to around 7,000 people. It has received an average of daily calls of 32 to 37 from March until Oct. 6, she added.

This raised the average monthly calls to the NCMH hotline to 907. Fifty-three of the calls were suicide-related.

The callers’ ages ranged from 18 to 30 and were mostly women.

Cuevas said the top three reasons for calling were related to anxiety, asking for referrals to psychiatrists and inquiries regarding hospital services.

Earlier, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III called on the people to work together to increase awareness and address mental health concerns during the pandemic.

Duque underscored that mental health is a “serious matter and could not be left unattended.”

He urged those who have mental health problems not to hesitate in calling mental health hotlines because there “is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to taking better care of one’s mind.”