PH Senate approves Mental Health Bill

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MANILA, Philippines – Voting 19-0, the Senate on Tuesday, May 2, passed on third and final reading the bill seeking to include affordable and accessible mental health services in the Philippine health system.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, sponsor of Senate Bill No 1354 or the Mental Health Act of 2017, lauded the “historic” passage of the measure. She pointed out that the Philippines is one of the few countries left without a mental health law. (READ: Why we need a mental health law in PH)

“This is a historic day for all of us….Because of this measure, our people with mental health needs will no longer suffer silently in the dark. They will no longer endure an invisible illness and fight an invisible war,” Hontiveros said in a speech.

In 2012 alone, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that there were 2,558 cases of Filipinos committing suicide, averaging to 7 suicide cases per day.

The Department of Health, for its part, reported that one in 5 Filipino adults has some form of mental illness, topped by schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety.

The principal author of the bill is Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III. His co-authors are Senators Loren Legarda, Antonio Trillanes IV, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Juan Edgardo Angara, and Joel Villanueva.

Mental health advocates led by Miss International 2016 Kylie Verzosa, Antoinette Taus, and Jerika Ejercito attended the Senate session and lauded the passage of the bill.

About time

Angara and Sotto welcomed the bill’s passage, saying there is a growing number of Filipinos suffering from mental health issues.

“I am very pleased on the quick passage of the mental health bill in the Senate. It is about time that this nation will have a law to aid those suffering from mental health disorder,” Sotto said in a statement.

“There is no time better than today to chart a national mental health policy for the country. The numbers on mental health problems are staggering, and we can no longer ignore this,” he said in a statement.

Angara called on their counterparts in the House to approve the measure.

In October 2016, Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial signed an administrative order (AO) on the nationwide implementation of the health department’s mental health program. – Rappler.com