Press Release
March 1, 2017


Mr. President, it is my distinct honor and privilege as an advocate championing mental health to sponsor Committee Report No. 41 "AN ACT ESTABLISHING A NATIONAL MENTAL HEALTH POLICY FOR THE PURPOSE OF ENHANCING THE DELIVERY OF INTEGRATED MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES, PROMOTING AND PROTECTING PERSONS UTILIZING PSYCHIATRIC, NEUROLOGIC AND PSYCHOSOCIAL HEALTH SERVICES, APPROPRIATING FUNDS THEREFOR AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES" in substitution of SBN 9, 415, 522, 657, 1155, and 1190 authored by Senators Sotto, Legarda, Trillanes, Aquino, Angara, and yours truly.

Mental health is a critical public health issue. Worldwide, the collective burden of mental, neurological, and substance use disorders is the leading cause of years lived with disability. According to the World Health Organization, someone commits suicide every 40 seconds. In the Philippines, the 2010 national census estimates that of the 1.4 million Filipinos with disabilities, 14 percent or over 200,000 persons were found to have "mental disabilities or disorders." At ang mas karima-rimarim, pitong Pilipino ang nagpapakamatay araw-araw.

Despite being a significant cause of disability, we note the inadequate attention that has been given to mental health in the past years. The latest data and information we have on mental health are outdated and the capacity of our health care delivery system to respond to patients with mental health conditions is severely lacking. The ratio of mental health worker per population in the Philippines is 2 per 100,000 population, which is less than ideal considering that Malaysia and Indonesia have 4.9 mental health workers per 100,000 population and 3.1 per 100,000 population respectively.

Another pertinent issue is the stigma and discrimination associated with mental health. There are many sad stories of society's lack of empathy for people living with mental health conditions. We hear stories of people spiraling into destructive depression because of the lack of social support and the delay in accessing treatment for fear of being ostracized. Sa probinsya o malalayong mga lugar, sinasabihan pang kinulam o sinapian. Pinagbibintangan ng kung ano-ano.

We hear anecdotes of kids being bullied and treated badly because they are considered "different" or "special." They are subjected to the vilest kinds of name-calling: "sisa", "may ningning" o "baliw", at ang "tard" na shortcut ng retard ay ginagamit pang-insulto lalo sa social media. There are times that even the basic human rights of persons with mental illness are violated. May mga kwento ng kinululong sa kwarto, tinatali, kinakahiya. They are subjected to unhygienic and inhumane living conditions, abuse, neglect and harmful and degrading treatment at the hands of a society that has failed to understand their concerns.

At the heart of the struggle for a mental health law is therefore the urgent need to uphold the basic right of all Filipinos to mental health, ensure access to mental health services, and to promote mental and psychosocial well-being.

This Committee Report which is a product of the collective efforts of my fellow sponsors and fellow advocates for mental health from various sectors after a series of meaningful discussions has the following notable features:

1. It recognizes the rights of individuals with mental health conditions especially their right to decide on matters concerning their health and welfare. It provides the framework for informed consent, supported decision-making, and advanced directives for those with mental health conditions.

2. It articulates the rights of family, legal representatives, and mental health professionals, in supporting individuals with mental health conditions.

3. It integrates mental health services into the primary health care system at the community level and mandates mental health services to be made available at this level.

4. It pushes for the strengthening of the capacity of tertiary regional and provincial hospitals in providing psychiatric, psychosocial, and neurologic services;

5. It seeks the integration of mental health promotion in educational institutions and in the workplace to address the stigma and discrimination associated with mental health;

6. It provides for the capacity building, reorientation, and training of mental health professionals and health workers to develop evidenced-based, culturally-appropriate, and human rights oriented mental health services.

7. It provides for the punishment of imprisonment of less than 6 months - 2 years and a fine of 10,000 to P200,000 for violation of the proposed measure.

8. Last and certainly not the least, it proposes the appropriation of five percent (5%) of the incremental revenues from the excise tax on alcohol and tobacco products collected by the government to secure the necessary resources for the implementation of the proposed measure.

Before I conclude, Mr. President. Allow me to thank my fellow sponsors and committed colleagues in the Committee on Health for their significant inputs not only on this bill but also for being active participants in the Committee in the past 8 months. I would also like to express my gratitude as well to my fellow advocates for mental health, the different NGOs and other government agencies particularly the DOH which has identified mental health as one its priority legislation. Our legislative work in pushing for meaningful reforms in the health sector remains unhampered. Now more than ever, we are determined and committed to pursue our advocacy of achieving universal health care and improving the health and welfare of all Filipinos.

It's time to tell all Filipinos with mental health needs, and who doesn't, that we are no alone and that no one should suffer silently in the dark.

Thank you Mr. President.

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