In a historic vote, the Senate on Tuesday passed on third and final reading a national mental health policy, the first of its kind in the country.
Senate Bill No. 1354, otherwise known as the Philippine Mental Health Law, was sponsored and principally authored by Senator Risa Hontiveros. It seeks to integrate mental health services and programs in the public health system. The bill also mandates the government to put up basic mental health services at the community level and psychiatric, psychosocial and neurologic services in all regional, provincial and tertiary hospitals.
“This is a historic day for all of us. After being one of the few countries left without a mental health policy, we are now one step closer to realizing a national mental health law to comprehensively address the Filipinos’ mental health needs and ensure that our rights as persons with mental health needs are protected and secured,” Hontiveros said.
The legislator thanked her fellow senators for supporting the passage of the said bill. She particularly commended the Senate’s new Chairperson of the Committee on Health, Senator JV Ejercito, for backing the proposed measure.
“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,” said the lawmaker.
In 2012 alone, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that there were 2,558 cases of Filipinos committing suicide, averaging to 7 suicide cases daily. On the other hand, the Department of Health (DOH) counts that 1 in 5 Filipino adults have some form of mental illness, with schizophrenia, depression and anxiety topping the incidents of disorder.
Hontiveros’ mental health bill was co-authored by Senators Vicente Sotto, Loren Legarda, Antonio Trillanes, Bam Aquino, Sonny 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 said bill.