Legarda Hails Senate Approval of Mental Health Bill

May 12, 2017

Senator Loren Legarda today hailed the Senate’s approval on third and final reading of the Mental Health Bill under Senate Bill No. 1354, which seeks to provide affordable and accessible mental health services to Filipinos with mental disabilities.


Legarda, coauthor of the proposed bill, said that the enactment of the said measure would usher in a new chapter in mental healthcare policy and service delivery in the Philippines as it would integrate mental heath in all health services and policy initiatives.


“Mental healthcare should be delivered as an integral part of our primary healthcare system amid the growing number of mental illnesses that are left untreated due to lack of mental facilities and of physicians who are sufficiently trained to handle and treat mental conditions,” the Senator stressed.


In 2012 alone, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that there were 2,558 cases of Filipinos committing suicide, averaging to 7 suicide cases per day.


The Department of Health, for its part, reported that one in 5 Filipino adults has some form of mental illness, topped by schizophrenia, depression and anxiety.


“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 an estimated 490 psychiatrists and 1,000 nurses working in psychiatric care, and even less 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 said measure, 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.


“Many of the health problems we encounter arise from mental conditions. Our physicians see a significant proportion of common symptoms such as fatigue, abdominal pain, and back pain for which they don’t find a cause. If we will be able to identify patients’ psychosocial stressors and common mental and behavioral conditions such as depression, anxiety and substance use, we can understand more about what drive these symptoms and be able to give appropriate care and treatment,” Legarda concluded.