Even with the signing of the Philippine Mental Health Law—which, just to keep it real is a landmark in itself—the road toward proper enforcement of RA 11036 is lined with challenges.
Based on data from 2016, the Department of Health’s (DOH) Bureau of Health and Facilities Services declared that there are only two government-owned psychiatric health centers, the Mariveles Mental Hospital in Bataan and Cavite Center for Mental Health. The same data revealed that throughout the country, only 58 private psychiatric health facilities are present (with 32 all in NCR), with the rest located in Regions 1 to 5, 7, 10, and the Cordillera Administrative Region. Kagulo, ‘di ba?**
Tables turned when on June 21, 2018, the signing of the Philippine Mental Health Law signaled a landmark shift—and a positive one at that, bes. Which begs the question for the government: may follow-through ba tayo, mga mamser?
A shortage of manpower?
On July 21 at the Young Professionals’ Summit held at the De La Salle University-Taft campus, Dr. RJ Naguit, National Chairperson of the Youth for Mental Health Coalition, and Dr. Gia Sison, National Adviser to the Youth for Mental Health Coalition, discussed the hurdles the newly-signed law will likely encounter. (Walang patumanggang hurdles here, FYI.)
“Ang problema kasi lack of manpower to address the demand for services,” Naguit tells MB Life in an interview. “If we can train every health professional to handle mental health conditions, mababawasan yung gap na ’yon.”
Naguit’s concern is a most pertinent one. As of December 2017, there are less than 700 psychiatrists, and only a little over 1,000 nurses who work in psychiatric care.* Sison, for her part, echoed Naguit’s sentiments about a shortage of manpower posing a problem to the law’s proper enforcement.
“There will always be a challenge,” Sison adds. “The real challenge will come in the implementation.”
Reducing the stigma
On a more positive note, Naguit sees the integration of neurology and psychiatry to health-aligned courses through RA 11036 as an auspicious beginning to reducing the stigma surrounding mental health.
“Ngayon kasi, pag may problem ka, psychiatry agad pupunta,” Naguit elaborates. “Ideally, every doctor should be able to address mental health conditions. Ang problema sa curriculum ng medicine ’di sya masyadong discussed.”
The Philippine Mental Health Law requires schools and private companies to raise awareness, as a means of reducing the stigma around mental health conditions, as well as encourage sufferers to seek help immediately.
Dr. Gia Sison, herself a breast cancer survivor and mental health advocate, views the involvement of driven individuals like Naguit as winning half the battle. “If we involve passionate people, I think that will solve 50 percent of the problem,” Sison remarks.
With the signing of the Philippine Mental Health Law, there is reason to believe that, despite the bumps that line our path, the Philippines has a fighting chance. Laban lang tayo.
For mental health support, reach out to the Mental Health Coaltion at 804-4673, 0917-558-4673, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* data cited in article from DOH