Early this year, the Philippine Psychiatric Association (PPA) initiated a petition for our country’s first-ever Mental Health Act. Its goal is “to protect the rights of people with mental disorders and/or disabilities by putting in place an official body that will oversee the policies and programs that need to be developed to prevent and treat mental illnesses, and to promote the mental health of Filipinos.”
In an open letter to Philippine legislators at change.org, the PPA wrote:
“Please recognize the fact that there are no programs and policies designed to protect the mentally ill, prevent mental illness, and promote mental health in our country. The Mental Health Act is aimed at developing solutions to multi-faceted and serious problems concerning the mental health of Filipinos. In our country, mental health problems have too long been dismissed as a second priority. This needs to change. Make the first Mental Health Act happen.”
According to WHO, 1 in 5 people suffer from mental health problems worldwide, yet there are only 0.05 psychiatrists per 100,000 people in the Philippines. “Although knowledge about clinical depression is growing, there is still a major stigma attached to mental health,” said SOS Philippines, an online support group for Filipinos suffering from clinical depression and other mental health ailments.
“Many Filipinos still believe in the fallacies about depression and mental health, and that keeps people from getting the help they need or even acknowledging that something is wrong,” they said.
“In reality, there is actually nothing to be ashamed of because seeking help for mental health is no different from seeking help for heart disease, cancer, and other ailments,” SOS added. As of April, the petition has collected almost 7,000 signatures. A total of 200,000 signatures are needed to move this petition forward.