According to the World Health Organization - AIMS Report on Mental Health System in the Philippines, there is no legislative or financial support for people with mental disorders. And unlike the majority of countries worldwide, we have the glaring absence of a mental health law.
Only about 5% of the government's total health budget is spent on mental health and large portions of it go to the operation and maintenance of mental hospitals. The new social insurance scheme includes mental disorders but only covers acute inpatient care. It is also alarming to note that only a small percentage of mental health workers have had training related to human rights. Needless to say, low priority on mental health poses as a significant barrier to progress in the treatment of patients.
1. Eye-opener: It's more prevalent than we think.
A DLSU student fell to her death by jumping off the university building in October 25, just a day after a female teen jumped from the fourth floor of SM Megamall in Mandaluyong.
One would have to wonder what the two victims had gone through to think that they had no other option. Another thought would be, would they still have went on with it, if they had sought or received some form of help. Senator Risa Hontiveros, chair of the Senate Committee on Health, states that the number of suicide cases has progressively increased from 1992 to 2012. Moreover, it has also been noted that the Philippines has the most number of depressed people in Southeast Asia and that 1 in 5 Filipinos suffer from mental disorder, with the youth being one of the most vulnerable sectors.
2. Strong social stigma prevents people from seeking help.
It is unfortunate that strong social stigma is attached to mental disorders and suicide which often prevents people from seeking help, forcing them to suffer silently in the dark. Pursuing the mental health law can increase awareness, help educate and inform the general public about mental health and in time, would hopefully lift the taboo.
3. We need better infrastructure for hospitals and mental health facilities.
Mental hospitals are working within their capacity at present. However, there has been no increase in the number of beds even with the steadily growing number of patients, resulting in heavy hospital congestion. Mental health facilities are not evenly distributed across the country and favor only those near or within the National Capital Region.
A comprehensive mental health law would enhance mental health services and protect the rights of the mentally ill. Mental health will be integrated in the education curriculum. Medical students shall also be required to study mental health. Non-medical alternatives or other forms of treatment shall be recognized. Psychiatric and neurologic service in regional, provincial and in all tertiary level hospitals shall be established. The future looks promising if we continue to push for changes to efficiently address the mental health needs of the Filipino people.
Philstar.com - Student reportedly falls to her death in DLSU
Philstar.com - Teen falls to her death in Mandaluyong mall
WHO-AIMS - Mental Health System in the Philippines
ABS-CBN News - 1 in 5 Filipinos Suffer from Mental Health Disorder, Says Solon
Senate.gov.ph - Hontiveros Lauds DOH AO on Mental Health
ABS-CBN News - DOH Seeks to Help Depressed, Suicidal via New Hotline
GMA News - Breaking Stigma: The Question of Mental Health Reform
CNN News - Mental health to be a DOH priority