Sotto pushes bill on mental health

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THE Philippines may have the lowest suicide rate in Southeast Asia but mental illnesses such as depression and schizophrenia afflict many, prompting Sen. Vicente Sotto 3rd to file a bill that seeks to establish an effective and accessible mental health program.

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Based on the report of the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH), the suicide rate in the Philippines is 2.5 for men and 1.7 for women per 100,000 individuals.

A survey conducted by the World Health Organization in 2011 showed that 16 percent of students aged 13 to 15 have seriously considered attempting suicide while 13 percent have actually attempted suicide one or more times.

The Department of Health (DOH), in a study in 2006 among government employees in Metro Manila, learned that 32 percent of 327 respondents have experienced a mental health problem in their lifetime.

To address mental health problems, Sotto filed Senate Bill 9 that aims to incorporate and institutionalize comprehensive mental health services into the national health system in the Philippines.

Senate Bill 9, or the Philippine Mental Health Act of 2016, will provide accessible, affordable and equitable mental health care especially to the poor and high-risk population.

Under Section 6 of the measure, government health agencies shall ensure a safe, therapeutic and hygienic environment with sufficient privacy in mental health facilities and shall be responsible for the licensing, monitoring and assessment of all mental health facilities.

Sotto’s bill also calls for the establishment of the Philippine Mental Health Council as an attached agency under the DOH. The council will provide a coherent, rational, and unified response to mental health problems though the implementation of the national mental health care delivery system.

The council will be composed of the DOH secretary as the chairperson, the executive director as vice chairperson and chief executive officer (CEO) and eight members of individual from government sector, private sector and the academe.

A separate proposal was filed by Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th but his bill gives more focus on providing mental health care for the youth.

“We must ensure that the next generation of Filipinos are mentally resilient and don’t fall prey to drug use,” Aquino said.

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