House panel okays ‘Comprehensive Mental Health Act’

MANILA-- A House of Representatives' panel has approved a substitute bill seeking to establish a national mental health policy to enhance the mental health services delivery in the country.

According to a statement on Wednesday, the House committee on health, chaired by Quezon Rep. Angelina Tan, recently approved an unnumbered bill, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Mental Health Act.

The said bill, which consolidated all nine similar measures, aims to promote and protect persons utilizing psychiatric, neurological and psychosocial health services.

The bill also seeks to integrate mental health care in the general health delivery system, especially the programs of the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) for the mentally disabled persons.

The study of mental health shall be introduced and integrated in both elementary and secondary educational systems to prevent depression, obesity and teenage pregnancy among students.

Under the bill, every person shall have the right to the best available mental health care, which shall be part of the health and social care and protection system.

This means that every person suffering from a mental illness shall have the right to receive humane treatment and also the right against discrimination on the ground of mental illness.

The bill mandates the DOH to develop a National Mental Health Care Services Delivery System, which shall constitute a quality mental health care program as well as a nationwide mental health information and education program.

The said program shall be done in close coordination with, and active involvement of, persons with disabilities and their respective organizations, and other users of mental health facilities and services, including their careers, and mental health professionals.

Furthermore, the bill seeks the reconstitution and strengthening of the Philippine Mental Health Council as an attached agency under the DOH to provide for a coherent, rational and unified response to mental health problems, concerns and efforts.

Deputy Speaker Pia Cayetano, one of the principal authors of the bill, cited the Global School Based Health Survey (WHO 2011) which revealed that 16 percent of students between 13-15 years old have "seriously considered attempting suicide during the past year" while 13 percent have "actually attempted suicide one or more times during the past year."

Cayetano also cited a 2006 DOH study among government employees in Metro Manila which showed that 32 percent out of 327 respondents have experienced a mental health problem in their lifetime.

A separate DOH study in 2004 showed that almost one per 100 households has a member with mental disability, while another DOH study in 2003 said that intentional self-harm is the ninth leading cause of death among 20 to 24 years old.

Source: Philippines News Agency