Lawmaker calls for mental health bill passage amid celebrity suicides

MANILA With the recent deaths of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade by suicide, a leader in the House of Representatives on Wednesday called for the swift passage into law of the proposed mental health bill.

Deputy Speaker Romero Quimbo said the ball is now in the court of MalacaAang as both chambers of Congress have already passed and consolidated the bill.

The recent deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain have once more brought the issue of mental health to the forefront. Apart from the messages of support and calls for greater awareness of mental health issues, what is needed most by the countless Filipinos who live with mental health problems is concrete action by the government, Quimbo said.

Quimbo said there is a need to address the inadequate government response to the mental health needs of Filipinos by establishing a national mental health system.

He cited data from the Department of Health showing that one in five adults and one in ten children in the country have experienced mental health problems.

Far too many promising lives have been destroyed or diminished because of unaddressed mental health care needs," Quimbo said.

Even when they are able to reach out to their friends and families, Filipinos living with mental health problems simply have no mental health facilities or psychiatrists to turn to. This is precisely why the Mental Health Act is needed now, Quimbo added.

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.

Other provisions of the bill include the creation of community-based mental health care facilities, and the integration of the study of mental health in elementary and high schools.

The eventual passage into law of the Mental Health Act will not solve the problem overnight. Providing mental health services to all Filipinos who need it and ending the stigma attached to mental health will be a long process requiring additional and committed work from government and all concerned sectors," Quimbo said.

"What is important, however, is that the process be jumpstarted through the passage into law of this measure. No less important is the message we send to those who have for far too long suffered in silence and without adequate support: you are not alone, he added. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency