As of June 21st of 2018, President Duterte signed the Mental Health Law. This has been a necessary and long-awaited step in the right direction for our country, given the current state of mental health in it.
Our country is dubbed one of the happiest countries in the world, and yet ABS-CBN states that depression affects 3.3 million Filipinos, while another 3.1 million suffer from anxiety disorders. In every 100,000 persons, there are 2.9 suicides. Depression is the third most common disability in the Philippines, following visual and hearing disabilities. These statistics prove the necessity of the integration of care for mental health in the public healthcare system, and that is this bill’s goal.
Not to mention the stigma that surrounds mental health overall. The passing of the Mental Health Bill aids in shedding light on a topic that is mainly swept under the rug. It’s about time we are able to casually discuss the challenges we may be facing in regard to mental health with the people that can help us, similar to how our titos and titas converse about the state of their blood sugar levels in the hopes of getting a good doctor recommendation, or tips on coping with it.
Senator Risa Hontiveros claimed that “No longer shall Filipinos suffer silently in the dark. The people’s mental health issues will now cease to be seen as an invisible sickness spoken only in whispers. Finally, help is here.” This serves as reassurance that while the social stigma is very much real, it may be well on its way to being dispelled.
Senator Pangilinan emphasized the need for funding in a press release, as it is essential in order to enact what is stated in the bill, but for now we can rejoice in the victory that is its passing. It is encouraging to see our government take action, and while it is exciting to see the positive ripple this step will generate, it is still simply a step and not the end of our fight for mental healthcare in the Philippines.
It is important to note that there are plenty of laws that are in place but are not properly enforced. An example would be as mundane as traffic laws, with the abundance of jaywalkers and traffic violators we encounter on a day-to-day basis.
Let’s hope the Mental Health Law is properly implemented and given importance by the government, in order to be able to significantly improve mental healthcare in the Philippines. Otherwise it is, and will remain, a single step forward.