‘Displaced families need mental health services’

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SENATOR Juan Edgardo Angara has called on concerned agencies to provide sufficient mental health services to displaced families in Marawi City amid reports that 2,500 evacuees have shown symptoms of schizophrenia.

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Marawi Crisis Management Committee spokesperson Zia Alonto Adiong deplored the lack of psychiatrists in temporary shelters to attend to the needs of traumatized evacuues. Schizophrenia is a serious mental health disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and acts.

“The shattered dignity of the Maranaos is more difficult to relieve. It takes more than food or water or even shelter. It needs much more than that to be restored,” Angara said.

“Let’s aggressively address the well-being of the evacuees. It is more important to rebuild their souls more than the buildings downtown. When souls are broken, there is no rehabilitating a city because a city is its people,” he added.

Angara, one of the authors of Senate Bill 1354 or the Philippine Mental Health Law, said that the crisis in Marawi underscores the urgent need for a mental health law in the country.

The senator said that with such a law in place, mental health services will be more accessible in conflict areas “so as to immediately provide psychological first aid to victims to minimize their stress symptoms following a traumatic incident.”

Angara cited a survey conducted by the Philippine Psychiatric Association (PPA) which showed that there are only 490 psychiatrists in the country, which means that there are roughly 50 qualified psychiatrists for every 10 million Filipinos.

The Senate, on May 1, passed on third and final reading SB 1354 which seeks to integrate mental health services and programs in the public health system to address rising cases of suicide, specifically among the youth. The House of Representatives has yet to pass a counterpart mental health bill.

The landmark measure mandates the government to put up basic mental health services at the community level and psychiatric, psychosocial and neurologic services in all regional, provincial and tertiary hospitals.

In 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 2,558 Filipinos killed themselves, which means an average of seven suicides daily.

The Department of Health (DoH) said one in five Filipino adults have some form of mental illness, with schizophrenia, depression and anxiety topping the list of disorders.

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