Duterte urged to sign mental health bill into law

MANILA In light of the recent suicide cases involving international celebrities, Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday urged President Rodrigo Duterte to sign into law the Mental Health Act which seeks to provide help to Filipinos suffering from depression and other mental health issues up to the community level.

In a Kapihan sa Senado news forum, Hontiveros noted that the Mental Health Act has already been ratified by both chambers of Congress last month.

I really call on the President because the Mental Health bill has already been ratified by both houses of Congress since last May. Within this month, it's up for signing she said in Filipino.

The Akbayan senator said that even if the bill will lapse into law by June 21, she pointed out that it is still better for Duterte to sign it immediately as the urgency of enacting the bill could not be stated enough and the burden of mental health illness is real.

During the ratification of the bill at the Senate last February, Hontiveros pointed out the issue of mental health, a relevant public health issue that affects every Filipino, has been cast in the shadows and spoken only in whispers.

She said it usually takes a high profile case, like the recent suicide of celebrities Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, before people begin opening up about suicide and depression.

Meanwhile, the Akbayan lawmaker and principal sponsor of the bill pointed out that the Philippines is averaging seven cases of suicide per day in 2012 as reported by the World Health Organization.

While we're thankful that we have the lowest rate in the ASEAN bloc, the last two decades have shown that the incidents are slowly rising, Hontiveros said.

Hontiveros said that what is disheartening is the rising cases of suicide among the youth ages 10 -24.

According to a report from the National Poison Management and Control Center (NPMCC) of the Philippine General Hospital during a Senate hearing, 46 percent of the total suicide cases recorded since 2010 is from the youth.

Hontiveros cited that in 2012, 17 percent of youth surveyed said that they have at least contemplated committing suicide once; 12 percent said they have tried committing suicide; and 11 percent said that they have already thought of planning how to do it.

Meanwhile, the United Nations health agency also listed 4.5 million cases of depression among Filipinos.

However, the Department of Health said that one-third of depressed people in the country seek professional help.

Wala pong sinisino ang depression na worldwide ay pinakalaganap pa rin na problema sa usapin ng mental health (Depression chooses no one, the issue on mental health is still a global problem) she said.

Kaya't hindi po nawawala ng urgency na maisabatas na ang mental health bill (That's why there's urgency to enact this bill into law) Hontiveros said.

According to Hontiveros, the Mental Health Act will reinforce mechanisms to ensure that the rights of individuals with mental health conditions are protected.

The bill provides for a more robust health-service delivery system that integrates mental health services at the community level and enhances the capacity of our government hospitals in providing high-level care.

The Mental Health Act will likewise mainstream mental health promotion and education to reduce stigma and discrimination by integrating mental health in the school curriculum and institutionalizing mental health programs in different settings including the workplace. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency