The Importance of Mental Health/Disability Teaching in the Philippines: How Awareness Can Help Progress A Third World Country in the 21st Century (PMC 2017 Privilege Speech)

Screen Shot 2017-10-21 at 12.57.32 AMIn this year’s Philippine Model Congress, I was lucky enough to have been chosen by my committee’s moderators to be a speaker in the Privilege Hour.

I’m extremely grateful to have been given this opportunity to talk at the Philippine Senate. This advocacy will always stay close to my heart.

Looking back, the Philippine Model Congress is undoubtedly one of the best experiences I’ve had. A big shout out to committee four, for being such a fun and diverse group. I’ll always cherish the time I had with such passionate minds and kind hearted souls.

I hope the content of my speech sheds some light on mental health importance and inspires you to turn good thoughts into actions.

Let me ask you a question. What’s more important for you? Mental or physical health?

A great number of you would probably answer physical health. In fact, that is what most people think. According to the National Statistics Office (NSO), mental health illnesses/disability are the third most common forms of morbidity for Filipinos with a 17 out of 20 percent of them suffering from these types of problems.

The statistics are definitely alarming. But what’s more intriguing is the fact that there are national mental health laws that are yet to be enacted even with many proposals from various advocates and mental health organizations.

What did the government do to properly promulgate this extremely important issue?

There were early records of Senator Orlando Mercado during the late 1980’s as an author and the following year, the same measure was proposed by Jose Lina.

An alternative for law was made by health secretary Manuel M. Dayrit in 2001 called the Philippine Mental Health Policy which included leaderships in the mental health sectors.

Our Vice President Leni Robredo, filed the House Bill of 5374 in 2016 with a counterpart of the Senate Bill 2910 by Senator Pia Cayetano during her term as district representative in the 16th congress. Unfortunately, neither one was passed.

Last February this 2017, the Senate of the Philippines approved the third and final reading of a bill creating the national mental health policy also known as the Senate Bill No. 1345. It seeks to integrate mental health services and programs to the public. This, they claim, would “help” in decrease the number of Filipinos causing suicide or getting depression, anxiety or any of the like.

Yes, they are helping those with mental illnesses or those who are struggling with those pressing matters in one way or another.

But what have they done in educating those who do not completely understand what it means to be mentally ill? Does the majority of the Filipino populace understand what it’s really like for those who have for example down syndrome or autism?

How do you treat those people who may not be physically disabled, but are on the inside?

It is vital to properly promulgate to others the importance of a person’s emotional, psychological and social well being. This is the first step in promoting an ideal environment of respect and empathy for all. Not only does it shed light to others, but it in fact sheds light the most to ourselves, because we get to learn the importance of our intrinsic dignity which is completely inherent and inviolable.

Promoting the importance of mental health awareness and disability to educational systems or to grassroots communities can help authentic development in society that fosters proper acknowledgement and due regard for a person’s overall well being.

We must first start by recognizing others as subjects and not as objects. It seems that in many problems we encounter today, we tend to use others as tools for our personal benefit and not as other people wherein we can relate or recognize to. Helping our family members (the smallest unit of society) understand this can help our nation evolve to be an understanding community.

The government, senators and even us, members of the Philippine Model Congress should have a proper comprehension of how we view laws and properly incorporate human rights. Laws are created and are meant for man. That is a fact. But does law exist for mere human survival? No. Does law merely exist to guide and constrain the government for equality? No. Justice should be served and the essence is not just to be fair. The purpose of law is to recognize the importance of all humans and what they go through physically and emotionally. Laws should be in line with this.

But before laws can even be established, it is through education where it can be upheld.

Adding it to school curriculums, having more talks and programs and mental health are just some ideas at the tip of the ice berg in creating this awareness in our country.

The success of this can lead to progression in our third world nation. Why?

Because when you understand outliers or those who are indifferent to you (in this case people with mental health disabilities), you get to understand fully what it means to truly live a life that is dignified and fulfilled. When you get to learn about these people’s experiences and when you learn to cope with them, you get to take their shoes in for a day and spread to others your experience, to spread the word of importance.

Our modern nation is so different than a hundred years ago. Our language is changing. Our culture is molding into so many new things. Why can’t it be easy for us to embrace those indifferent to us since our new world is so “different” anyway?

With our ever changing world and the many issues we are facing such as extra-juridical killings, corruption and lack of education, our contemporary times shows us the lack of empathy and grit we need to persevere to achieve our desired goal of overall peace and unity as a Philippine nation. This is why we are a third world country. Things are easily said than done. Action is urgently needed.

I encourage you to go out of your comfort zone and create ways for yourself to be the change and the answer our country, the Philippines. Our small acts of educating others about people with mental health issues/disability; educating about problems facing our fellow members of society, is the start of progression.

As said by Jose Rizal, “Nasa kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan.”

We are the change, anyway.

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