Talking about mental health in the Philippines

Mental health is a growing concern in the Philippines. According to the National Statistics Office, 17 to 20 percent of Filipino adults experience psychiatric problems with schizophrenia as the top mental issue. Suicide caused by mental illnesses is a pressing issue as well.

Perhaps that's just the tip of the iceberg as I believe many people are undiagnosed due to stigma. What makes it worse is that today, many young people are living their lives defined by comment sections.

Living within a culture that emphasizes resilience and humor amidst pain and personal suffering makes it all the more difficult to talk about mental illness out in the open. The stigma surrounding mental illness further adds to the struggles of people who suffer from various mental health conditions.

The current state of Mental Health in PH

The National Center for Mental Health's statistics project suicide rates of 2.5 for men and 1.7 for women per 100,000 members of the population. These numbers do not include unreported cases.

According to a 2014 report of the World Health Organization, there were 2,558 cases of suicide due to mental health problems in the Philippines in the year 2012 alone. As a public health concern, mental illness hits the most vulnerable sectors of society — the young and the poor.

The Mental Health Law

President Rodrigo Duterte has recently signed (last June 2018) the landmark Mental Health Law - Republic Act 11036, which would provide affordable and accessible mental health services for Filipinos.

The Mental Health Law cements the government’s commitment to a more holistic approach to healthcare: without sound mental health there can be no genuine physical health.

Currently, PhilHealth only covers hospitalization brought about by acute attacks of mental and behavioral disorders at a package rate of Php7,800. Under the Mental Health Act, PhilHealth must “ensure that insurance packages equivalent to those covering physical disorders of comparable impact are available to patients affected by mental disorders.

Cost of Mental health treatment and facilities

At present, there are only 700 psychiatrists and 1,000 psychiatric nurses in the Philippines. Most of them are based in the National Capital Region since the majority of mental institutions are located in Metro Manila.

Despite the increasing number of mental health facilities in the Philippines, access to professional treatment is still a challenge. In Metro Manila, a session with a private psychiatrist costs Php2,000 to Php3,000. Depending on the case, a patient may visit once or twice a month. Medication can be quite expensive, too.

The cost of counseling and treatment is not the only factor that sets back most Filipinos from going to doctors to get a professional opinion. As mentioned above, Filipino culture encourages coping through social means as well as the stigma that comes with it.

This is something that corporations and government institutions need to address. For self-diagnosis can also only worsen one’s condition. I also wrote something previously that's related to this:
What to do with the costs of mental health at work

A work in progress...

Some companies or brands are starting to raise awareness regarding this through social media but it is still not enough. More needs to be done since after the #WorldMentalHealthDay finishes, now what?

Conversations should start within families and other social circles, where help is within reach. And while the law and medical treatment can be allies in treatment and rehabilitation, liberation from the shadow of stigma and discrimination should begin in the basic units of society.

Also, there are activities here in Cebu that's being initiated such as the Cebu Mental Health Week 2018:

If you know someone suffering from mental issues, be a friend. Listen, empathize, and encourage that person to seek professional treatment whenever appropriate. It’s never too late to help someone in need.

WHO - Preventing Suicide guide
Philippine Mental Health Association

Talking about mental health in the Philippines Talking about mental health in the Philippines Reviewed by Vernon Joseph Go on Tuesday, October 16, 2018 Rating: 5

No comments