Press Release
June 10, 2018

'Early intervention crucial in treating mental disorder'

Citing the importance of early intervention and prevention in treating mental illnesses, Senator Sonny Angara has urged PhilHealth to cover the fees for consultations with psychiatrists.

Globally, more than 300 million people are now living with depression, the leading cause of ill health and disability.

A 2011 World Health Organization study found that the Philippines had the highest incidence of depression in Southeast Asia.

The recent deaths of well-known personalities Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade have sparked calls to strengthen mental health policies worldwide.

"Mental and behavioral disorders can lead to impairment in judgement, self-inflicted pain, or worse, suicide. This can be prevented.

"Early intervention through consultation with psychiatrists and proper medication should be readily accessible for ordinary Filipinos. Hindi dapat maging hadlang, lalo na sa mga mahihirap, ang malaking gastusin para sila ay magpatingin at magpagamot," Angara said.

Angara has been leading the call in the Senate for the expansion of PhilHealth's primary care benefit package, which includes free check-ups and consultations, laboratory tests, and medicines, for all Filipinos.

Currently, PhilHealth only covers hospitalization brought about by acute attacks of mental and behavioral disorders at a package rate of P7,800. Consultations and medicines are not covered.

In 2016, a national suicide prevention hotline called HOPELINE was launched by the Department of Health (DOH).

However, the service is limited to answering calls and questions, and referring patients to mental health professionals.

The Philippines has only 490 psychiatrists or one psychiatrist per 250,000 Filipinosóa far cry from the standard ratio of 1 per 50,000 people.

"Another problem is we do not have enough psychiatric facilities and psychiatrists in the country. Bagama't isang seryoso at mabigat na suliranin ang pagkakaroon ng mental disorder, malaki pa rin ang kakulangan natin sa tamang pagtugon dito. Huwag na nating hintayin na lumala ang problemang ito sa ating bansa," the senator said.

Angara, one of the authors of Senate Bill 1354 or the Mental Health Act, said he is optimistic that President Duterte will sign the measure into law soon. The bill was transmitted to Malacanang in May 21.

The mental health bill aims to provide basic mental health services down to the barangay level by mandating the DOH to provide psychiatric services to all regional, provincial, and tertiary hospitals, while increasing the capacities of mental health professionals.

"While the government works to make mental health care more affordable and accessible, another challenge is getting Filipinos to overcome stigma. To address this, the bill seeks to integrate mental health programs and policies in schools and workplaces," the lawmaker explained.

"Kailangang tiyakin na ang bawat indibidwal na nakararanas ng depresyon ay napagtutuunan ng kaukulang pansin, binibigyan ng agarang atensyong medikal, at hindi iiwan hanggang sa kanyang tuluyang paggaling," Angara said.

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