Community-based Mental Health Services takes centerstage

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DAVAO CITY (September 5)-Mental health is as serious as physical health that needs to be taken care of. In fact, the third most common disease among Filipinos are related to mental health illnesses, according to the 2014 National Statistics Office study. 

Last June, President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Philippine Mental Health Law or Republic Act 11306, a law securing the rights and welfare of Filipinos with mental health needs as well as mental health professionals.

It is mandated in the law to provide community-based mental health services, to improve mental healthcare facilities and to promote the importance of mental health in schools and workplaces.  The Department of Health has recorded 2, 400 suicide cases in 2016 alone.  

The passage of the bill into a law is a victory for the Philippines as it is a stepping stone to help people suffering from mental health illnesses. 

No one is exempted

Mental health illnesses are medical conditions that never choose its victims. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental illnesses even chronic or long-term in nature are curable if access to proper treatment is available. Individuals who are going through these illnesses can still live productively in the community.

Nevertheless, the most vulnerable people susceptible with these illnesses are the poor. It has been a burden for individuals who are exposed in stressful circumstances such as malnutrition, dangerous environment, socio-economic challenges, exploitation, and the inaccessibility of mental health care.

The lack of access to proper therapy and medication, mental illnesses more likely to induce severity and eventually incapacitate individuals suffering. Yet, people are not to be blamed for not getting mental health treatments as it constitutes paying thousands of pesos.

Community-based services

Bringing mental health services at the grassroot level is a groundbreaking move. The government is scaling up community-based mental health programs in the country.

Initiatives of community-based programs with regards to mental health services were piloted in 2013 after the hit of Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines. WHO trained doctors and local health workers of psychological first aid to attend the needs of survivors recovering from trauma.

Moreover, the Philippine Mental Health Association (PMHA) established the Mental Health Community-Based Program (MHCBP), a community-based approach promoting mental health, correcting mental health and disorders misunderstandings, and educating the people to become advocates of mental health in their communities. MHCBP is conducted in Luzon areas in collaboration with the Department of Health (DOH) through the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) and the Local Government Units (LGU).

Move to action

Accessibility, expensive costs, stigma and discrimination are predicaments that cause treatment avoidance impeding mental health.  With the passage of the Philippine Mental Health Law, one of the responsibilities of the Filipinos is to be vigilant on the implementation of the law. 

Moreover, a challenge vested on the Filipino people to incessantly obstruct the stigma and discrimination through educating oneself and conversing people on the significance of mental health especially to the family and friends. Importantly, the country must accept the existence and prevalence of the multifaceted mental illnesses that need medical care and social understanding to eradicate the fear of the people for being broken.– Pia Duran/ NewsLine/ph

Be informed
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