Hopeline, the national support hotline to prevent suicide and depression, is currently the subject of a barrage of criticisms online for being inaccessible beyond office hours despite its promise of 24/7 availability.
Twitter user Ligia Dagoy took to Twitter on July 5 to slam the hotline, which supposedly told her “business hours are now closed.”
Suicide hotline answered "sorry. Business hours are now closed."
Good job philippines
— Ligia Daróy (@legendaroy) July 5, 2017
Since then, her tweet has been retweeted over 5,000 times and liked almost 22,000 times.
The Department of Health, partnered with the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation and the World Health Organization, launched Hopeline on National Suicide Prevention Awareness Day on September 13, 2016. Hopeline was meant to be a 24/7 suicide prevention hotline that can be reached at (02) 804-4637; 0917-5584673; and 2919 for TM and Globe subscribers.
Rappler reported that Daroy dialed Hopeline at around 8pm on July 5, but instead heard an automated voice telling her, “Sorry. Business hours are only from 6am to 8pm.”
She told Rappler that she was depressed and opted to call the hotline instead of her friends, but was surprised at the answer she got.
“I was depressed. I thought all of my friends are tired of listening to me so I called Hopeline. Then I got, ‘Sorry. Business hours are only from 6 am to 8 pm,’” Daroy said.
“What if it was someone who was actually ready to jump off a building, tapos ganoon ‘yung maririnig mo (then you will hear something like that)?” she said.
“I didn’t mean to attack them but if it will be addressed it would be really nice,” Daroy added.
Hopeline denies inaccessibility
Hopeline denied the claims in the now viral tweet.
Dr. Bernardino Vicente, head of the National Center of Mental Health, denied the hotline’s inaccessibility, adding that there are other numbers to call.
“Hindi lang naman isang number ang number ng Hopeline. We have several numbers kasi we anticipate na one thunder lang, puwedeng bumagsak ‘yung isang line. We have lines that are operated by PLDT, and lines that are operated by Globe,” he told Rappler.
Hopeline’s program consultant, Mila Rolinas said that glitches usually happen during peak hours, especially since there are only 12 consultants taking the calls. She added that some phone calls may run for over 20 minutes, especially in high-risk situations, but she emphasized that Hopeline is available 24/7.
NGF told Inquirer that the hotline had technical issues before but were already resolved by Globe Telecom.
Hopeline denies apathetic responses
Aside from the hotline’s alleged inaccessibility, some netizens also raised the issue of how consultants answered their calls apathetically.
They answered one sunday "Sorry nasa mass ako now ah pero may hospital dyan malapit"
— ABBY (@trizziabigail) July 6, 2017
I tried it too, pro ina advise na mkipagkita ako ng psychologist. Ni wala mn lng syang na advise na nkapagpagaan ng loob.
— Ash Dauntless 💝☝😹 (@DauntlessAsh8) July 6, 2017
Vicente once again denied such claims.
“Definitely, hindi mag-a-answer ‘yung staff namin ng, ‘Sorry, nasa simbahan ako’ or ‘Sorry, out of line kami.’ I don’t think any of our staff ay mag-a-answer ng ganoon,” he said.
He added that their consultants are well trained and are experts in the behavioral sciences.
Vicente noted that Hopeline allows callers with depression or suicidal tendencies to get the help they need without revealing their identity. However, he said that the hotline currently does not have a system in getting feedback from callers.
Rolinas said, though, that there are cases when callers called them back to give updates on how they are doing after getting support from the hotline, with some saying that they have gone to see mental health professionals.
With her tweet going viral, Daroy is hoping it will bring awareness to the issue and lead to improvements in the system.
“I really want people to start talking about it more. I hope they get the message and develop the system better,” she said.