In June 2018, the Mental Health Bill was signed into law, effectively unlocking much-needed services and resources that can help the people who suffer from mental illness, as well as their families and even the communities they belong to.
The passage of Republic Act 11036 is timely, as there is an estimated 20 million Filipinos who are suffering from various forms of mental illness. Even more urgent is the rising incidence of suicide: for men, 2.5 per 100,000 people and for women 1.7, excluding unreported cases. Now that there is a law that requires concerned government agencies to put in place proper programs and provide services for Filipinos suffering from mental health illnesses. Here are some of the key measures as prescribed by RA 11036.
1. DIVERSE SERVICES. Mental health services will be wide-ranging and accessible: psychiatric, psychosocial and neurologic services for mental health patients at the regional, provincial and tertiary hospital levels.
2. COMMUNITY LEVEL EDUCATION & AWARENESS. Recognizing the importance of an informed and prepared community, training, education and public awareness efforts are for implementation at the most basic level. The Bill puts emphasis on the basic mental health services, community resilience, psychosocial well-being training capacity-building programs, support services, and promotion of mental health awareness.
3. MENTAL HEALTH EDUCATION. The integration of mental health into the educational system is another key feature of RA 11036. The concerned agencies like the Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority are given the task of leading the implementation in all educational institutions.
4. RIGHTS OF SERVICE USERS. To ensure effective and efficient implementation, the Bill also specifies the rights of service users or those who have experienced or are experiencing mental disorder, as well as the rights of family members, caregivers, legal representatives and mental health professionals.
5. MORE MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS. In a country with more than 20 million who have suffered from mental health disorder or illness, there are only 700 psychiatrists and more than a thousand psychiatric nurses. The ideal ratio is one psychiatrist for every 50,000 patients. To address this shortage of mental health professionals, the Bill also provides for capacity-building, reorientation and training of mental health professionals or workers in coordination with the psychiatry departments of general hospitals, university hospitals and mental facilities.
Once the Implementing Rules & Regulations currently on the drawing board are finalized, the impact of the Mental Health Bill will finally be felt, especially where it is needed most. As the world marks World Mental Health Day and we celebrate National Mental Health Awareness Week in the Philippines, the landmark passage of RA 11036 gives us good reason to celebrate.
Sources & References
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