Needed support and services

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Jan Alaba’s digital illustration, Boy in the Mirror —

The Philippines is one of the countries that has no law on mental health. It is only recently that the Mental Health Act has gained ground both at the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Although there are public and private mental health care facilities in the country, majority are still located in National Capital Region, which is not easily accessible to people from far-away places.

The government presently runs specialized institutions like the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) in Mandaluyong City; Cavite Center for Mental Health in Trece Martires, Cavite; and the Mariveles Mental Ward in Bataan.

The NCMH is categorized as a Special Research Training Center and hospital under the Department of Health (DoH). It is mandated to render a comprehensive (preventive, promotive, curative and rehabilitative) range of quality mental health services nationwide. It also creates venues for quality mental health education, training and research geared towards hospital and community mental health services nationwide, according to its Web site. The institution offers psychiatric services and interventions for both hospital and outpatient services.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Mental Health Association, Inc. (PMHA) is a private, nonstock, nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion of mental health and prevention of mental disorders, its Web site says. Its services are divided into three programs: Education and Information Services, which promote mental health and prevent mental disorders through campaigns and activities; Clinical and Diagnostics Services, which provide outpatient services; and Intervention Services, which present holistic intervention programs.

The Philippine Psychiatric Association (PPA), for its part, is committed to providing the best care for “the biopsychosocial well-being of patients, families, communities and ourselves” through the advancement of Psychiatry and the field of mental health.

Despite the above-mentioned institutions, there are only a handful of professionals who have expertise in this area, with most of them doing private practice.

According to the World Health Organization-Assessment Instrument for Mental Health Systems (WHO-AIMS) published in 2007, the total number of human resources working in mental health facilities or private practice per 100,000 general population is 3.43. By profession, it is broken down as follows: 0.42 psychiatrist, 0.17 other medical doctors (not specialized in psychiatry), 0.91 nurses, 0.14 psychologists, 0.08 social workers, 0.08 occupational therapists, and 1.62 other health or mental health workers, the report says.

There are also online platforms and nongovernment organizations that are staunch advocates of mental health.

The Natasha Goulbourn Foundation, for one, is “a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing depression to light through the use of educational lectures, confidential crisis lines and referrals to partner psychologists.” Its primary goal is to have awareness on depression and how to prevent, recognize or treat this mental illness.

The Youth for Mental Health is also a group of student organizations dedicated “to educate the public and promote mental well-being,” and most importantly, “end the stigma on mental illnesses” through various activities and forums.

Silakbo PH, on the other hand, aims for mental health awareness through creative means. It hopes that telling one’s story through art could help in shedding light on the importance of mental health.

Support groups can also be a great help for people suffering from mental health conditions. People who suffered from similar experiences could help each other in their journey to recovery.

Much could still be done when it comes to mental health awareness. Hopefully, with the passage of the law for mental health, this will allow the government to establish a national mental health policy and allot a bigger share of the national budget that will pave the way for more programs, integrated services, and protection for patients suffering from different mental conditions. — Erika Fortuno-Mioten