‘Looming mental health pandemic’ prompts call for law’s application review
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Sherwin Gatchalian wants a thorough review of how the Mental Health Act is implemented “to address an impending pandemic of mental health in the country.”
Gatchalian filed Senate Resolution 671, urging the appropriate committee to review the implementation of a law that establishes a national mental health policy to strengthen mental health services and protect psychosocial health service users’ rights.
He proposed the investigation to identify public mental health service delivery difficulties, analyze current policies, and suggest ways to improve them to prevent a mental health crisis.
“Considering a looming health pandemic, it is crucial for the government to urgently intervene by improving and investing in mental health services across healthcare, protection, education, and welfare,” he said.
Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate basic education panel, pointed out the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on learners, citing the “distressing picture” of 412 student suicides recorded in school years 2020 to 2021 and 2021 to 2022.
Gatchalian said the COVID-19 pandemic should serve as a “wakeup call” for concerned stakeholders to urgently prioritize public mental health services in the country.
He cited a May 9 inquiry conducted by the Senate health and demography panel, which exposed lapses in the implementation of the Mental Health Act – a law signed by then-President Rodrigo Duterte in 2018.
“During the said hearing, significant concerns were raised, revealing inadequate provision of mental health care benefits and prevention services, a distressing number of suicide cases, and substandard conditions at the National Center for Mental Health,” Gatchalian recalled.
He lamented how the high demand for mental health services is matched with high costs, which makes them “inaccessible” for most Filipinos.
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