Gatchalian: Gov’t must address ‘mental health pandemic’ now
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Thursday said that the national government could no longer put off addressing chronic mental health problems in the country, especially after facing the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Sa panahong patuloy tayong bumabangon mula sa pinsalang dinulot ng pandemya, hindi na natin maaaring ipagpaliban ang pagpapatupad ng mga hakbang upang pangalagaan ang mental health ng ating mga kababayan,” Gatchalian said in a statement, reiterating urgent government action against the “mental health pandemic” in time for the celebration of Mental Health Action Day.
(At a time when we continue to recover from the damage caused by the pandemic, we can no longer delay the implementation of measures to protect the mental health of our citizens.)
“Ang ating bansa ay nasa ilalim ng pandemya ng mental health at kailangan nating alagaan ang ating mga kababayan, lalo na ang mga nanganganib na makaranas ng mga isyu sa mental health,” he added.
(Our country is under a mental health pandemic, and we need to care for our citizens, especially those at risk of experiencing mental health issues.)
According to Gatchalian, one of the ways the government can address mental health problems is through targeted intervention, which could prevent suicide attempts and address mental health concerns.
Citing the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH), he noted that suicide-related calls have risen consistently from 712 in 2019 to 5,167 in 2021.
The senator also underscored that there were more deaths by suicide than suicide-related calls, suggesting that many victims struggled to seek help.
Gatchalian, chair of the Senate committee on basic education, then pointed out the vulnerability of young people to mental health problems.
Still citing data from the NCMH, the senator said that 20 percent or 4,6800 of the total 21,648 suicide-related calls in 2021 accounted for callers younger than 17 years old while around 60 percent were aged 18 to 30.
These numbers, he stressed, suggest that 80 percent of those who call the NCMH belong to the working group while the rest are students.
Gatchalian previously called for institutionalizing a school-based mental health program in public and private basic education institutions nationwide. He also sponsored the Basic Education Mental Health and Well-Being Promotion Act (Senate Bill No. 2200), which seeks to strengthen the delivery of mental health services in the country’s basic education schools.
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