Three-term Senator Pushes For Utilization Of Mental Health Care Act

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At least 3.6 million Filipinos are suffering from some kind of mental, neurological, or substance use disorders, according to a Department of Health (DOH) survey. The health agency admitted, however, that the figure could be higher as it only covered three “selected conditions.”

The National Center for Mental Health (NCMH)’s crisis hotline has also been receiving an “alarming” surge of calls with a daily average of 32 to 37 and a monthly average of 907 from March to October, DOH National Mental Health Program head Frances Prescila Cuevas said in a press briefing. Among the monthly calls, 53 are suicide-related. 

This is why Senatorial candidate Loren Legarda continues to push for the utilization of the Mental Health Act which she co-authored.

“Mental health is one aspect in the society that is not given utmost attention. With various societal issues that we are facing, we sometimes neglect to prioritize the mental health of every citizen of this nation without us knowing its effects on people’s day-to-day performance on education, employment, physical health and even relationships.”

loren legarda

Under Republic Act (RA) No. 11036, the Mental Health Act seeks to provide affordable and accessible mental health services for Filipinos suffering from mental disabilities.

“Adding to the woes of those who are suffering from mental health illnesses is the shortage of qualified mental health professionals as well as the stigma being associated with it. This mental health intervention would usher in a new chapter in mental health care policy and service delivery in the Philippines as it would integrate mental health in all health services and policy initiatives,” Legarda added.

As co-author of the law, Legarda sought a policy measure that was dedicated to enhancing the delivery of mental health services to the people. Mental health and wellness is an integral part of the Philippine health care system, as she saw the growing number of mental disabilities that were left untreated due to lack of facilities, and the want of physicians who are trained to specialize in the treatment of these mental conditions.

In 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported 2,558 cases of Filipinos committing suicide, averaging to 7 cases per day. Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DOH) reported that 1 in 5 Filipino adults suffers from mental illness, such as schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety.

Legarda said that, according to a recent study by Nicholle Maravilla and Myles Tan on RA 11036, “even after the country has recently passed its first Mental Health Act and Universal Health Care Law, only 5% of the healthcare expenditure is directed toward mental health. Also, there are only 7.76 hospital beds and 0.41 psychiatrists per 100,000 people.”

The three-term Senator’s growing concern for these statistics led her to ensure the bill’s passage, as she saw the need for the government to promote mental health awareness, and ensure that no Filipino suffers from the dreaded impacts of mental disorder.

Under said Act, the Philippine Council for Mental Health shall be established as an agency under the DOH, which would address mental health problems, concerns and efforts through the formulation and implementation of the National Mental Health Care Delivery System.

The system shall constitute a quality mental health care program that will ensure equitable, accessible, affordable, appropriate, efficient and effective delivery of mental health care to all its stakeholders by mental health professionals and mental health workers.

“The pandemic has highlighted the need to also take care of our mental health to help us survive and thrive despite the current challenges. This is one of the many laws that I passed when I was Senator and these are relevant and helpful in coping with changes caused by the current health crisis. RA 11036 has ushered in a new chapter in mental healthcare policy and service delivery in the Philippines and we should ensure its strict and effective implementation on the integration of mental heath in all health services and policy initiatives.”

loren legarda

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