TAGUIG CITY, METRO MANILA – The national mental health law should provide for the protection of the mental capital of every Filipino and not only for persons with mental illness, and should be in accordance with the WHO’s vision of a world where mental health is valued, promoted and protected as laid down in its World Mental Health Action Plan.
Dr. Dinah P. Nadera, WHO consultant for mental health and chairperson of the committee on research of the Philippine Psychiatric Association, said thus during the second Healthy Mind Summit held July 31 at the SMX Aura Convention Center which was participated in by various stakeholders in the crafting of a national mental health law.
Such a law, she said, should focus on preventing mental disorders and persons with these disorders are afforded a good quality of life by giving them the opportunity to exercise the full range of human rights. They should also have access to high quality, culturally appropriate health and social care in a timely manner in order to promote recovery and attain the best possible life for them.
“The global target for 2020 is that 80% of all the countries around the world would have developed or updated their mental health policy or plan in line with the international and regional human rights instruments,” Dr. Nadera explained. One indicator is the existence of such a policy or plan, she continued.
The Philippines is not totally bereft of a mental health policy because “we have AO8 in 2001 and AO9 in 2007 with the latter revised to accommodate community-based mental health services.”
Dr. Nadera also said that management of the program has been transferred from the Non-Communicable Disease Office to the Office of Special Concerns and eventually to the National Program Management Committee for Mental Health which has a wide representation of stakeholders including professional organizations, academia, NGOs and alliance of carers of persons with mental illness.
An indicator on the current scenario for a comprehensive and responsive mental health program is the proportion of persons with severe mental illness such as psychosis, bipolar disorder, and depression vis-à-vis those who are able to seek treatment and have access to mental health services. Dr. Nadera said the national program management committee for mental health has established model provinces for mental health services.
“In 2010, if we look at primary health care at the community level which is our main unit, only 1% of the doctors, 2% of the nurses and 6% of other workers which include the BHWs and the Barangay midwives, have received training related to mental health,” she said.
“But by the end of June this year, the numbers went up to 70.8% in Eastern Samar and 20% in Bohol. Also, one community in Occidental Mindoro, one in Guimaras, and three in Iloilo have functioning community-based mental health services.”
“We are pushing for community-based treatment because research shows that in developing countries like the Philippines, the treatment gap is between 76 to 85%,” Dr. Nadera explained. “It means that 76 to 85% of people who should be seeking treatment are not able to access treatment. And this is the reason why the services need to be brought to the community.”
With regards to baseline data for the prevalence of mental disorders in the country, Dr. Nadera cited figures from the year 2000 and 2004 wherein 88 out of 100,000 people are afflicted with such diseases and 0.7 percent of households have members with any form of mental illness, respectively.
However, she added that…[pq]…the national disability survey shows that mental illness is the leading cause of disability in the Philippines.[/pq]
Dr. Nadera further said that the crafting of mental health legislation should entail the collaboration of many sectors and professions. “It should also be inclusive of promotion and prevention and should be made an integral part of the government’s Universal Healthcare program.”
She emphasized that he legislation should address access to care and ensure the integration of mental health in primary health care. “Strengthening of community-based mental health through education will also improve access,” she continued. “And public information on this initiative is important in order to get more support.”
– Denn Meneses, Medical Observer