House panel approves Comprehensive Mental Health Act

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The Health department said one out of five Filipino adults have some form of mental illness, like schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 12) — A national mental health policy is closer to becoming law after a house committee approved a bill to improve the delivery of mental health services to Filipinos.

The House Committee on Health passed the "Comprehensive Mental Health Act" on May 10, a statement on Tuesday from the House of Representatives said.

The unnumbered bill aims to give Filipinos access to a mental care system integrated in the general health delivery system, in coordination with the programs of the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

A similar bill was approved by the Senate on third and final reading in May 2017. Senate Bill No. 1345, or the Philippine Mental Health bill, seeks to integrate mental health promotion in both educational institutions and the workplace to address the stigma and discrimination usually associated with mental health.

Read More: Senate passes Mental Health Act

The bill is expected to go to a plenary session of the House of Representatives for discussion among lawmakers, and will be put to a vote on second reading.

The House bill also proposed to integrate the study of mental health in both elementary and high school to curb incidences of depression, obesity, and teenage pregnancy among students.

A 2011 study from World Health Organization showed that 17 percent of students in the Philippines between 13 and 15 years old have ''seriously considered attempting suicide during the past 12 months.' Thirteen percent have ''actually attempted suicide one or more times during the past 12 months," it added.

The bill also proposed that each local government unit should have mental health facilities, as well as at least one DOH physician who is licensed to conduct drug screening.

It also requires the DOH to develop, and implement a national mental health program, as well as to coordinate with PhilHealth to ensure that insurance packages for those with mental disorders are as just as accessible to those with physical disorders.