A recently published editorial of this journal states that ‘the world needs an enquiry [sic] so as to learn as many lessons as possible’.One of the lessons learned can be gleaned from the letter correspondences that have stressed the intervening potential of religious and/or spiritual support in the pandemic, particularly the role of spirituality2 and religious institutions such as the Catholic Church.3 The long period of lockdown in the Philippines, however, resulted in psychological problems that precipitated self-harm and self-destructive behaviors.
Late August 2020, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) of the Philippines has particularly called on the Catholic Church and other religions for guidance and conveying a ‘message of hope’.It has particularly pinpointed the aid in flattening not the curve of coronavirus deaths but suicide cases.This is upon contextualizing what Menardo Guevarra, IATF official, calls an ‘alarming’ case of rising suicide rates during the pandemic.
However, we emphasize that suicide prevention is a more serious case as it deals with an existential crisis, which is not necessarily spiritual. There are, of course, limits in reducing COVID-19 suicide interventions to spiritual matters. Worship services have gone virtual. However, religious service attendance cannot protect against suicide ideation.Moreover, it is only after physical treatment that spiritual–religious psychotherapy can be done.This will lead to the already reported resolves of either that all religious leaders must be trained about suicide crisis intervention ‘to foster coordination with mental health services’ or healthcare providers be trained in ‘how to approach spiritual/religious themes in suicide prevention’. COVID-19 Mental health, Psychosocial and counseling hotlines in the Philippines are also already available.
Psychospiritual development in this regard is not entirely psychological or spiritual but cultural, and the patterns through which society within the pandemic operates seem to be tied more on an increased ‘quest for meaning’ after reported suicidal behaviors caused by human problems on ‘social isolation, anxiety, fear of contagion, chronic stress and economic difficulties’.Hence, suicide intervention can benefit from lessons on humanism that deal with very specific existential needs for every individual.
A study on humanism’s importance on the aspect of communication and compassion during the pandemic is indeed vital. We add, in conclusion, that the specific existential needs to prevent suicide are the ‘constant motivation to flee from anxiety back into conformism’ and ‘a reaffirmation of everyday life’. Such needs must be at the core message of what we might call ‘existential hope’. Hope can be viewed as the impetus to confront a great difficulty (recall Aquinas’ philosophy) or the radical refusal to put limits on what God can do (recall Dominican Theology). Existential hope largely embodies these views, not as superhuman optimism but both as the more humanistic refusal to surrender and the confrontation to trudge the uncertain and difficult path of this pandemic ahead. It is more open to secular understandings and crafts a more human response against suicide ideation stemming from hopelessness and helplessness
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