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A-PAD PH, doctors conduct training for responders

By Sally S. Altea

LEGAZPI CITY --- The Asia Pacific Alliance for Disaster Management (A-PAD) Philippines has partnered with the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) to capacitate disaster responders and partners in providing mental health care and psychosocial support . This collaboration aims to assist the overall recovery of disaster survivors and their communities.

“Mental health during disasters is hard to quantify. We have seen this during the COVID-19 pandemic where there was an increasing number of depression and other mental health concerns especially among young people,” A-PAD PH OIC Executive Director Athea Penaloza said.

The first Mental Health Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) Training in Emergency Situations was held at the Richmonde Hotel in Ortigas, Pasig Metro Manila on April 19 -20, with multi-sectoral participants chosen from various regions in the country, including the Information Center Managers of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) Albay and Davao del Sur.

“This is just a start. We’re planning to cascade this in the communities especially to the responders, and we need your help,” Penaloza said.

A-PAD PH President Gilbert Albero also appealed for further strengthening of collaboration among A-PAD partners and volunteers to effectively carry out its mission to “save more lives in less time.”

Top officials of the Asia Pacific Alliance Against Disaster Philippines (A-PAD PH), Philippine Medical Association (PMA) and Philippine Psychitric Association teamed up for the 1st Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) Training in Emergency Situations held at the Richmonde Hotel in Ortigas, Pasig Metro Manila on April 19 -20. (A-PAD photo)

“Here at the A-PAD Philippines, we are one in the spirit of collaboration. We cannot do it alone especially that there are many issues to address. Instead of focusing on the darkness, let’s focus on the light that we will bring and on how we can sustain our muti-sectoral partnerships to save more lives in less time,” Albero said.

Prepare, Look, Listen and Link

“MHPSS is not only for disasters and emergencies. It is for everybody in need of support,” said Dr. Bernard Argamosa, National Center for Mental Health medical specialist.

Argamosa cited Psychological first aid (PFA) as a MHPSS intervention that provides supportive response to a fellow human being in need of practical care in a non-intrusive, compassionate manner.

During her discussion, Department of Psychiatry West Visayas State University Medical Center Chairperson, Dr. Japhet Fernandez de Leon, presented the "Prepare, Look, Listen and Link” action principles of PFA as first-line psychosocial support especially for people affected by crisis situations.

"To prepare" involves learning the crisis event, available services and support systems and concerns on safety and security while "to look" means to observe for safety and people with obvious urgent needs or serious distress reactions.

"To listen" involves not only the ears but also the needed senses to know the physical, emotional, mental and behavioral aspects of an individual and to help them feel calm.

"To link" is to provide practical assistance and connect people with service and support providers who can address their needs and concerns.

Common mental health conditions

Philippine Psychiatric Association President Dr. Robert Buenaventura presented the common signs and symptoms of mental health conditions in the country.

These include schizophrenia, depression, panic attacks due to anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, drug Addiction and Sleep Disorders.

“Depression and anxiety may have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prevalence of depression likely increase after disaster especially without psychosocial support,” he said.

Buenaventura said that the rate of depression in females is two times that of males. However, with appropriate therapy, 80-90% of depressed patients can be treated successfully.

He added that 80% of suicide cases in the country is caused by depression, which is also the 2nd leading cause of death in 15-29 age group. They have also documented the "success rates" between male and female. Most males 'succeeded' in their fist suicide attempts, which may also be accidental, while females have more failed attempts.

Dr. Jonathan Pacunayen likewise shared his learnings and insights as volunteer member of the Philippine Emergency Medical Assistance Team during the earthquake disaster response in Turkey.

The A-PAD PH is a country platform and a member of a transnational disaster aid alliance working to facilitate cooperation and understanding between governments, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations in the Asia Pacific Region. (PIA5/Albay)


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