Legarda Calls for Integration of Mental Health Services into Nat’l Health System

October 10, 2016

In observance of World Mental Health Day on October 10, Senator Loren Legarda urged the government to create a comprehensive national mental health policy in order to provide adequate care for Filipino patients with mental health problems, especially the poor.


“Mental health care should be delivered as an integral part of our primary healthcare system because of the growing number of mental disabilities that are left untreated due to lack of facilities as well as physicians who are trained to handle mental conditions,” Legarda stressed.


To meet the needs of those who lack access to readily-available, affordable, and equitable mental health care, Legarda filed the proposed “Philippine Mental Health Act” which seeks to promulgate a national mental health policy towards the enhancement of integrated mental health services, and establishment of a Philippine Mental Health Council.


In a survey conducted by the Department of Health (DOH), among 327 government employees in Metro Manila, 32% were found to have experienced mental health problems. Moreover, almost one per 100 households has a member with mental disability. Meanwhile, as early as 2003, intentional self-harm was already found to be the 9th leading cause of death among Filipino adults aged between 20 and 24 years old. Individuals with chronic mental illness, children, overseas Filipino workers and those in areas of armed conflict have higher risk of getting mental health problems.


“Further adding to the woes of those afflicted with mental health illnesses is the shortage in qualified mental health professionals. At present, there are only about 490 psychiatrists and 1000 nurses working in psychiatric care, and even fewer general practitioners trained in early assessment and management of common mental health problem in the community. The number of addiction specialists, psychologists, occupational therapists, guidance counselors and social workers are extremely inadequate to meet the mental health needs of 100 million Filipinos,” Legarda lamented.


Data shows that there are only two mental hospitals, 46 outpatient facilities, four-day treatment facilities, 19 community-based psychiatric inpatient facilities and 15 community residential (custodial home-care) facilities in the entire country. Almost all mental health facilities are in major cities, while the only mental hospital in the National Capital Region houses only 4,200 beds.


Under Senate Bill No. 415, the Philippine Council for Mental Health shall be established as an attached agency under the DOH, to provide for a coherent, rational and unified response to 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, through the development of efficient and effective structures, systems and mechanisms that will ensure equitable, accessible, affordable, appropriate, efficient and effective delivery of mental health care to all its stakeholders by qualified, competent, compassionate and ethical mental health professionals and mental health workers.