Passage of mental health law praised as ‘whiff of good air’
Lawmakers lauded the passage into law of the landmark Philippine Mental Health Act on Thursday, with one saying it was a “whiff of good air” that for once, “all of us should rally behind and support.”
“The signing by President Duterte of the Mental Health Law is a whiff of good air and provenance that for once, something that all of us should rally behind and support,” Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin, an opposition member, said in a statement.
“It affirms our belief that holistic mental health care now, and for all regardless of status in life, should be a priority of government. Its relevance and import should not be underestimated,” he added.
Quezon Rep. Angelina Tan, chair of the House committee on health and one of the principal authors of the law in the House, also hailed the passage of Republic Act 11036 which would create and ensure a unified, accountable, comprehensive mental health service system in the country.
“The signing of this important health legislation comes at an auspicious time considering the recent tragic deaths of American celebrity chef, Anthony Bourdain, and fashion designer, Kate Spade, that had caught the attention of millions of people over the world on the importance of putting due attention to mental health and psychosocial well-being of every individual,” Tan pointed out.
The law, among others, provides for the basic mental health rights of every person and outlines the duties and responsibilities of government agencies and all mental health service providers in the provision of mental health services.
It particularly addresses the mental health problems encountered by drug dependents and cascades mental health services down to the barangays.
The law also promotes mental health education in schools and workplaces and integrates psychiatric, psychosocial, and neurologic services in regional, provincial and tertiary hospitals.
Tan cited a 2014 World Health Organization report which showed that more than 100 million people suffer from mental disorders in the Western Pacific region. This includes the Philippines, where a total of 2,558 suicide cases due to mental health problems have been recorded in 2012 alone.
For his part, Kabayan Rep. Ron Salo had asked the Department of Health and Department of Budget and Management to include enough funds to kickstart the provision of mental health care.
Expanded and better PhilHealth coverage for mental health and generic medicines should be in the set of RA 11036 programs, Salo added.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, while acknowledging the law’s need for improvement, said its passage is still a welcome development.
“We hope that with the passage of this law, the integration of a balanced mental health services through a National Program on Mental Health and Psychosocial Well-Being will be made to promote mental health, prevent mental problems and render comprehensive, equitable, accessible, affordable and quality mental health care,” he said. /je
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