Bohol in the pandemic: A psychological perspective (Part 1)

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Bohol in the pandemic: A psychological perspective (Part 1)

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On Saturday, I shared with the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals – Bohol, a talk which highlights the effect COVID 19 on Boholanos in particular, drawing from indices reflecting mental health and from my own clinical practice.

The statistics are actually mixed. For instance, there is a notable decrease in the cases of suicide. The total number of reported cases this yeas (cut-off) November 2020, is only at 37 compared with 54 and 46 cases in 2019 and 2018 respectively. 

What happened? Of course, this is something to be happy about! But at a time when we expected anxiety and hopelessness to rise, and consequently suicide, we now see a decreasing trend, if it is?

There are two ways I see it. First, this might just be a superficial reflection of a downward trend. Second, our efforts at education and mental health awareness are bearing fruits, so much so that people have now become more sensitive to the realities of depression and suicide, and concerns are more effectively addressed now than before. 

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I say it can just be superficial because as far as my work with several organizations are concerned, we still receive significant number of calls, texts, and online posts of suicide ideations and attempts. Hence, there are still alarming and real threats of various disorders with suicide as a possible sequela.

Yet, actual cases dwindled. Access to immediate response and intervention and the rising advocacy on mental health have helped a lot, I believe. More so, I believe the lockdown did not give people much opportunity to be alone in the house, hence, any possible plans are thwarted even before they are hatched because of the presence of family members. 

But while constant presence of family members can help in suicide prevention, it can be a threat to children in other ways, more precisely with Incestuous Rape. 

An alarming 375% rise of cases of incestuous rape is recorded this year. Data from the PNP show that from 4 cases in 2019, it ballooned to 19 in October this year. Interestingly, rape in general declined to 98 from 119 last year. How do we make sense of this?

Again, it’s a matter of opportunity and predispositions. The restrictions, limitations, and curfew associated with the lockdown restrained people in their houses. For the “highly sexualized pervert”, the significantly longer contact in the house with vulnerable daughters and close relatives becomes an opportunity to actualize their carnal desires and perhaps relieve tension, stress, and anxiety.

It is the same thing with sexual abuse in children. We see a 15% increase in reported cases. We also see a rise in psychological abuse in children and in women in general. 

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And the perpetrators are men, expectedly. We see a classic case of dominance here; the strong and powerful taking advantage of the weak and defenseless, never mind if it is your very own daughter. 

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These two areas of behavior, suicide and rape, reflect a seemingly promising outcome on one, but an appalling scenario on the other. We appear to be gaining ground and traction on the part of suicide prevention, but challenged by high occurrences of child and women abuse. 

I hope perpetrators are apprehended already. But more importantly, our victims, the children, need appropriate and active intervention to heal and move on.  This should alarm us all and inform us on policies and interventions that can prevent and address rape of children in our homes. 

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