Mental Health Act seeks to expand mental health education, services

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 3) — It's time to take the mental health issue to the mainstream, a neophyte senator said on Monday.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros is looking into two places in particular in the proposed Senate Bill 1190, or the Mental Health Act of 2016, which aims to enhance mental health services and help Filipinos with mental disorders find proper treatment.

"The bill wants to empower further the Department of Health na ibaba niya hanggang kaya niya [to take it down as far as it can go], down to the barangay level," Hontiveros told CNN Philippines' The Source.

"Sa mga eskuwelahan [In schools], let's mainstream mental health in the curriculum," she added.

Hontiveros noted that mental disorders included "depression, anxiety, different bipolar disorders, suicidal tendencies or what they call ideation, and also all other milder or more severe forms of mental health concerns."

Such disorders are usually characterized by a physiological or chemical imbalance, and must be diagnosed by a professional psychiatrist.

The preface of the bill cited figures from the Philippine Statistics Authority, stating that one in five Filipino adults had a mental or psychiatric disorder.

"For too long, Filipinos have talked about mental health and our mental health problems in the dark. Stinistigmatize yan, dinidiscriminate [They are stigmatized, discriminated]," said Hontiveros.

"It makes it harder for people with mental health problems to come out into the light and ask for help, harder for mental health professionals... to know where these people are and be able to help them."

The bill passed the Senate on its second reading, with additional amendments to strengthen the DOH suicide hotline and on-campus mental health services.

"When we resume in May, I'm really hopeful that it will be approved on [the] third [reading]," said Hontiveros.

Mental health in barangays

The bill looks to provide mental health services in regional, provincial, and tertiary level hospitals. However, Hontiveros added that they hope the services trickle down to the barangay.

"Sana over the next five years down the barangay, maparami natin at ma-capacitate yung mga mental health professionals and mental health service providers," she said.

[Translation: Hopefully over the next five years, down to the barangay, we can multiply and capacitate mental health professionals and mental health service providers.]

Hontiveros noted that even barangay health workers and midwives, who may be dealing with possible postpartum depression, needed to have a basic knowledge of mental health.

"Dapat meron silang kahit basic na kaalaman how to detect when a member of the community... ay may mental health concerns at ialam kung papaano ima-match doon sa available services," said Hontiveros.

[Translation: They need to have basic information on how to detect when a member of the community... has mental health concerns and how to match those with available services.]

Mental health in schools

Another goal of the bill is to "mainstream mental health in the curricula of all our schools," Hontiveros added.

She said that DOH would lead this effort in partnership with the Department of Education and Commission on Higher Education.

Hontiveros said this could correct the way the public treats mentally ill persons, who are often feared or subjected to name-calling.

"Hindi yung katulad ngayon... kinahihiya natin kaya tinatago natin [Not like what happens today, where it's whispered about, we are ashamed of it and hide it]," she said. "That places a double, multiple burden on people with mental health problems.

Hontiveros also credited the Youth Coalition for Mental Health, a group of student organizations across 20 campuses in Metro Manila.

She said that they supported the bill, and in particular advocated for the training of guidance counsellors, referral to off-campus psychiatrists, mainstreaming mental health in the educational curriculum, and the provision of mental health services on campus.