It's been a few months since I started going to therapy. I honestly should've started earlier but there were a lot of factors that delayed me from seeing a psychiatrist—one of them being the heavy expenses. I wanted to pay for the therapy myself so I wouldn't depend on my parents for it, but I also didn't have a full-time job as I was still in graduate school at the time.
When I started looking for appointments, I knew I wanted it to be an in-person session for some sense of normalcy (and because I didn't want to bawl in front of my laptop at home where everyone could hear me—but that's just me!). But it was the middle of the pandemic, so I looked at online therapy sessions and was surprised to find that they cost upwards of P4,000. I knew therapy was expensive but I didn't know it was that expensive. That didn't even include the meds that I knew I would need. And if I were going to continue regularly going to therapy, it just wasn't a sustainable option.
I was officially diagnosed with Persistent Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Luckily, a friend suggested a psychiatrist who was available for in-person consultations. She had inquired about the price for me and informed me that it was P2,500 for the initial consultation with follow-up consultations at P2,000—still expensive, but definitely more manageable than the P4,000 option. Plus, the doctor's clinic was just a few minutes' drive from my home.
I was officially diagnosed with Persistent Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. In addition to doing talk therapy, I was prescribed medication to help me deal with the illnesses. I told my therapist that I would be shouldering all the expenses and she gladly gave me generic names for my prescription so that I could choose the less expensive brands when I go to the drugstore. But of course, if the drugstore is sold out of the cheaper brands, you'll end up buying the more expensive ones anyway, which is what happened to me. I ended up paying around P2,000 for my meds that first month.
The following month, the clinic had increased the price of follow-up consultations from P2,000 to P2,500. That's another P500 every month that I have to take into account, plus my meds, which accumulated to P3,000 that month—and I didn't even buy all the pills I needed.
I started getting overwhelmed because I didn't want to choose between my mental health and my savings.
I started getting overwhelmed because I didn't want to choose between my mental health and my savings. When I told my friends about it, they told me I might be eligible for a PWD Card. I initially doubted it because I didn't have any physical illnesses or disabilities but a friend with a chronic illness who has a PWD Card assured me that I could apply under "Psychosocial Disabilities." And since I still wanted (and needed) to go to therapy without running my bank account dry, I started reading up on the PWD Card.
What is a PWD Card?
A PWD Card is an identification card for persons with disabilities that lets them avail benefits and privileges as listed in RA 10745 or the Act Expanding the Benefits and Privileges of the Persons. (Yes, it's included in a law!)
There are nine types of disabilities listed the application form for the PWD Card:
- Psychosocial Disability
- Intellectual Disability
- Mental Disability
- Learning Disability
- Deaf/Hard of Hearing
- Visual Disability
- Speech and Language Impairment
- Orthopedic Disability
- Physical Disability.
The PWD Card is valid for three years and the initial card is free of charge. A small fee will be charged for renewal and in case of loss. Its benefits include 20 percent discount and VAT exemption when PWDs purchase certain goods and services like lodging establishments (aka hotels), restaurants, recreational centers, medicine, food, medical and dental services, diagnostic and laboratory fees, and professional fees for attending doctors. It can also be used for domestic air and sea travel (aka flights and ferries), land transportation travel, and funeral and burial services for the death of the PWD.
PWDs also get 5 percent off the regular retail price of basic necessities and prime commodities (aka groceries) every week without exceeding P1,300. Other perks include educational assistance for PWDs, special discounts in special programs, and express lanes.
How do I apply for a PWD Card?
You can check your city’s website of your city's PDAO (Persons with Disability Office) for specific instructions as it could vary from city to city. Since I reside in Quezon City, I checked their website for the instructions.
But the requirements are generally the same:
- a medical certificate with an abstract signed by a licensed physician
- a Certificate of Indigency from your barangay
- an accomplished application form you can download online (though they made me fill out a different one at the QC PDAO)
- two 2x2 pictures
In the absence of the PWD, you will also need a letter of authorization.
I started the process by asking my therapist for a medical certificate during one of our sessions. She issued me a digital one which I printed at home. It states that I have Persistent Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which will lead to psychosocial distress, making me eligible for the benefits for PWDs.
Next, I went to my barangay hall to get a Certificate of Indigency. You can expect to see a PWD desk where they'll assist you in getting your certificate. They asked me for an ID so I gave my driver's license and they said they needed a photocopy of it. There was a photocopier on-site and I just had to pay P3. If you want to have everything ready already, you can just bring a photocopy of your government ID yourself.
It should take less than 15 minutes to get a Certificate of Indigency. But long story short, I first went to the barangay hall on a Monday—went through printer malfunctions, an MIA PWD desk officer (twice)—and finally got my certificate on a late Friday afternoon (after someone else filled in for said MIA PWD desk officer). So here's a pro tip: Be mentally prepared for inefficiencies and things not going according to schedule. It was particularly important for me to get the PWD card as soon as possible before I bought my next batch of meds so I could save money. The week-long delay cost me P500 because I already had to buy the meds I was out of.
On one of the days I was waiting for my Certificate of Indigency from the barangay, I had my 2x2 pictures taken. To be filed under Things I Wish I Knew at the Time: You can smile in your PWD ID photo. You don't have to be serious or without glasses—it's not a passport.
Once I completed all the requirements, I headed to the PDAO office at the Quezon City Hall. They're currently at a temporary location but you can easily ask around for directions. Parking could also be tricky but there were some slots available. I arrived just before 4:30 p.m. (coming straight from the barangay hall) thinking that offices closed at 5:00 p.m. It turns out that they actually close at 3:00 p.m. but they still kindly accommodated me and a few other people who arrived before me.
I filled out a new form that was different from the one posted on the website but it had similar questions. They asked for my requirements, happily helped me glue my picture to the form, and quickly input my details into the system. I also had to manually log in my details in their record books. A few minutes after I submitted my requirements, I finally received my newly printed PWD card and a purchase booklet to be filled out when buying medicine and basic commodities.
It goes a long way into making sure you continue to get the proper care you need.
It was a fairly manageable process and could actually be finished within a day once you already have a medical certificate. Just make sure to bring an extra ounce of patience like you would for any other application. Still, the small hassle is worth the huge amount you save. It goes a long way into making sure you continue to get the proper care you need.
HOW'S YOUR MENTAL HEALTH?
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