Ron P Salo

First Law On Mental Health Likely To Be Signed This Year

STATEMENT BY THE HONORABLE RON P. SALO, KABAYAN Party-list Assistant Majority Leader, 09178917755   /kabayanpartylist/  @Kabayan_Ron

Assistant Majority Leader and House Committee on Health Member Ron P. Salo files House Bill 1040 or the Philippine Mental Health Law.

HB 1040 aims to address the growing mental health needs of Filipinos by formulating and institutionalizing a national mental health care delivery system that will ensure available, accessible, affordable, responsive, and high-quality mental health care services, especially the marginalized and high-risk population.

Salo, a former consultant of the Department of Health (DOH), is one with the World Health Organization (WHO) in underscoring the need for a mental health legislation to protect the rights of people with mental disorders.

In 2015, the DOH reported more than 8,000 cases of mental health disorders, with Schizophrenia comprising a large percentage at 3,457. Here were more than 2,000 cases of Bipolar Affective Disorder, followed by Psychotic Disorder and Depression. As early as 2004, the Social Weather Stations survey found that almost 1 per 100 households has a family member who has a mental disorder. WHO reported 2,558 cases of suicide in the country in 2012.

On Thursday, September 28, another young Filipino committed suicide. She reportedly jumped from the seventh floor restroom window of her school in Carbon in Cebu.

Two days later September 30, a lady call center agent died as car fell from Manila building; police have yet to rule the case as suicide.

Some personal problems are the apparent proximate causes according to news reports, but as the experts would say, suicide is a complex issue and needs to be addressed professionally and with sensitive care beyond the immediate apparent cause.

In order to address the rising incidence of mental disorder, I authored HB 1040, a measure seeking to address the lack of a law to specifically address the mental health of Filipinos through a comprehensive mental health program. It passed second reading in the House of Representatives last week and will most likely be approved on third and final reading this coming week.

The Senate already has a proposed Mental Health Act (SB 1354), which passed third and final reading. If the consolidated House bill moves faster, we could have the law of mental health by early next year.

The Department of Health estimate on fatal suicide in the country is at five Filipinos everyday but that figure is considered low because of under-reporting due to social stigma attached to suicide and mental health problems.

More Filipinos can come out of the shadows of social stigma if only they knew that some mental health problems are covered by PhilHealth. Yes, there is PhilHealth coverage for mental health issues.

In September last year, a suicide prevention hotline was launched in Cebu City. The hotline is dubbed HOPELINE and is run the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation. But the hotline has had technology, personnel and budget challenges. The Natasha Goulbourn Foundation works with the Philippine Psychiatric Association on suicide prevention. HOPELINE took 3,479 calls in 2016.

Noting that suicide is quite high among teenagers and young adults and the challenges faced by the hotline launched in Cebu, I am calling on the DOH to coordinate with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Department of Education (DepEd), and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to design and roll out further intervention measures the youth can connect with when they are in emotional trouble. DILG involvement in this effort is needed for the out-of-school youth. The DOH’s coordination with concerned agencies is a step prior to the full implementation of the Mental Health Act when it gets passed before the year ends.

One good example is a mobile app developed by then students of the University of the Philippines-Diliman. The students have graduated. Their brainchild was PsychUP for UP Manila. Perhaps CHED can commission the developers of PsychUP, Chad Errol Booc and Chara Mae San Diego, to design another mobile app that can be deployed for wider use to the general population. The CHED can use the Higher Education Development Fund or their funds for research. (END)