"Many Filipinos are suffering a crisis in the dark; the silent burden of impaired mental health."
This was the statement of Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros as she pushed for a measure to address the mental health needs of the Filipino people.
Together with former Senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani, the Philippine Psychiatric Association (PPA), celebrity endorser Jerika Ejercito and other advocates, Hontiveros filed on Thursday Senate Bill No. 1190 otherwise known as the“Philippine Mental Health Act of 2016.”
Hontiveros, who is the Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, said that the Philippines is one of the few countries in the world without a comprehensive mental health law.
1 in 5 Filipinos suffer from mental disorder
The senator, citing several studies and government statistics, said that the country has the highest number of depressed people in Southeast Asia with schizophrenia as the top mental health disorder among Filipinos.
"1 in 5 adult Filipinos suffer from mental or psychiatric disorder. This represents an average of 88 reported cases of mental illness per 100,000 Filipinos. Also, the number of suicide cases in the country has steadily risen over a period of 20 years from 1992 to 2012," Hontiveros explained.
Lack of psychiatrists
In the rural health centers, Hontiveros said that 50% of adults visiting rural health centers in remote barrios were diagnosed to have some form of psychological illness. The senator also underscored the lack of psychiatrists in the country. As of 2014, she said that there are only 490 psychiatrists currently licensed to practice in the Philippines.
Rights of persons with mental health needs
Hontiveros’ bill seeks to identify and solidify the rights of persons with mental health needs such as the right to receive mental health services at all levels of the health care system. The bill is also pushing for the establishment of psychiatric and neurologic service in regional, provincial, and all tertiary level hospitals, recognition of other forms of treatment/non-medical alternatives and integration of mental health in the education curriculum.
“For the longest time, many people with mental health needs are silently suffering in the dark due to the lack of a comprehensive mental health law. It's time we uphold the people's right to mental health and protect the rights of those who require mental health services," Hontiveros ended