Tag Archives: World Health Organization

Mental health in the Philippines

After more or less 28 years, the law that could provide affordable mental health services for Filipinos has been signed.

Referred to as the Mental Health Law, the Republic Act 11036 would secure the rights and welfare of persons with mental health needs, provide services for them even in barangays, improve mental healthcare facilities, and promote mental health education in schools and workplaces.

It also aims to (1) provide psychiatric, neurologic and psychosocial services to the regional and other tertiary level hospitals, (2) add mental health service providers, and (3) introduce anti-stigma or anti-discrimination programs in schools and workplaces. Mental healthcare would not just be concentrated in urban areas anymore and would highlight the importance of research required to formulate and develop culturally-relevant national mental health programs.

The Mental Health Law has been signed by Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senators Loren Legarda, Antonio Trillanes IV, Paolo Bengino Aquino IV, Juan Edgardo Angara, and Joel Villanueva.

A Human Right

Before the Mental Health Law was legislated, there have been at least 16 other bills focusing on mental health.

Former senator Orlando Mercado was the first one to file an act about it in 1989. The next year, another version was filed by Senator Jose Lina. Then in 2000, Executive Order 470 was issued, creating a council for mental health attached to the Department of Health (DOH).

The Philippine Mental Health Policy came into being in 2001, signed by former health secretary Manuel M. Dayrit. But it was revised four years after over 4.5 million cases of depression had been reported.

The figures went down as a result but the cases of anxiety and alcoholism have gone up in the succeeding years. Suicide, too, which was “seriously contemplated” by Filipino students as young as 13 years old. By 2012, 2,558 Filipinos died by suicide (World Health Organization) and 1 in 5 Filipino adults has some form of mental illness (Department of Health).

The destruction wrought by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) across the central Philippines—particularly in Marabut, Samar, Carles, and Estancia—led the government to scale up its community mental health programs and train city and municipal health officers in identifying mental health problems. It spearheaded the first public health convention on PWDs in order to improve their access to health and wellness services.

Then it signed an administrative order in 2016 for the nationwide implementation of its mental health program. It also created a national hotline for mental health assistance in 2017. That same year, the Senate passed the Senate Bill 1354 or the Mental Health Act of 2017 that enable affordable and accessible mental health services to Filipinos.

Globally, more than 300 million people are living with depression so, in the Philippines,  the DOH together with the WHO and the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation launched Hopeline, a 24-hour phone-based counseling service for individuals who suffer from that. Other organizations that are helping are the Youth for Mental Health Coalition, Incorporated, Silakbo PH, Isanliyab Servant Leaders’ Union, and Where There Is Hope (WTIH).

Mental health is important because all aspects of people’s lives is affected by it. Depression, suicidal ideation, and bipolar disorder are currently the most common mental health problems in the country, and one in every three Filipinos has a mental health problem1. There is only one psychiatrist for every 250,000 mentally ill patients, though, and the fund set aside for mental health is just five percent of the health department’s total annual budget2.

Furthermore, most of the mental health facilities and institutions are within the National Capital Region3. Most of the victims are overseas Filipino workers, residents of typhoon-prone areas, families that have abusive parents, and those that lived through disasters and violence.

With these in mind, The PWD Forum cannot but echo a Philippine senator’s hope for mental health in the country: that it will be eventually accepted as a genuine public concern that requires accessible medical care, consistent government support, and compassionate social understanding.

“Help is finally here. The Mental Health Law cements the government’s commitment to a more holistic approach to healthcare: without sound mental health there can be no genuine physical health.” ~ Sen. Risa Hontiveros

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of the GMA News

1This estimate was from a population survey conducted by the UP-Philippine General Hospital in Western Visayas more than 20 years ago. It was shared by Dr. Lourdes Ignacio, professor emeritus at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine, during her lecture on “Reaching the unreached: Integrating mental health care in general health care” before national academicians and national scientists of the National Academy of Science and Technology.

2From the allotment, 95% goes to the maintenance of mental health institutions and personnel’s salary.

3They are the National Center for Mental Health in Mandaluyong, Cavite Center for Mental Health in Trece Martires, Mariveles Mental Ward in Bataan, and psychiatric wards in the Philippine General Hospital, Makati Medical Center, University of Santo Tomas Hospital, University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center, and Metro Psychotherapy Facility.

Notes:

  1. Depression is a common and serious medical illness that can cause feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to suicidal ideation, which means thinking about or planning suicide.

Bipolar disorder, on the other hand, is an illness that causes unusual shifts in mood. Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by failure to understand reality. Anxiety causes nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worrying. All of them—depression, suicidal ideation, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and anxiety—can be treated through medication, counselling, and social rehabilitation.

  1. In rural areas: mental disorders are a result of other-worldly spirits or witchcraft.
  2. The state-run insurance firm, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) recently added mental illness under its coverage but for severe disorders and short- duration of confinement only.
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Turning One!

Preposterous it will sound if The PWD Forum would claim a hand on how the welfare of persons with disabilities (PWDs) throughout the world has improved in the last 12 months.

In my home country, various sectors have realized that the disaster risk reduction and management programs currently in place there should be more responsive.

The PWD Forum has written about how necessary these kinds of plans are in the Philippines since the country is almost always plagued by typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, and tsunamis last July 14, 2014. It has 726 readers there.

In the place where I am now, a team has been sent to the United Nations to organize a series of events concerning PWDs and highlight the country’s policies.

The PWD Forum has reported how the United Arab Emirates provides an environment conducive for PWDs like Feras and Wael Al Moubayed last October 28, 2014 as well as Kaltham Obaid Bakheet last April 28, 2015. It has 212 viewers there.

Elsewhere, some corporations have called for “an inclusive society” together with the PWDs. Some educational institutions have taught job skills to them, and some politicians have taken it upon themselves to provide assistive devices.

The PWD Forum has been seen in 43 other countries. Among these are the United States of America, Canada, United Kingdom, India, Lebanon, Germany, Australia, Japan, Jamaica, Belgium, Singapore, Switzerland, Pakistan, member states of the European Union, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Hong Kong, France, Taiwan, New Zealand, Malaysia, South Africa, Jordan, Bhutan, Spain, Indonesia, South Korea, Norway, Portugal, Qatar, Turkey, Thailand, Kenya, Bahamas, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Israel, Puerto Rico, Serbia, Austria, Poland, Vietnam, and Moldova.

Early on, The PWD Forum has wanted special education for all. But after sometime, it began to wonder if what it is advocating for is plausible especially in the third-world countries where PWDs are plenty. It has then thought to compromise: just another kind of special education for non-PWDs if they couldn’t be put together with the PWDs!

But Ashish Goyal didn’t learn numbers in a specialized school. Apolinario Mabini was able to study in two prestigious universities in the Philippines and had even set up a private school on his own. The mother of Tatyana McFadden had still enrolled her daughter in various sports activities even though Tatyana was born with spina bifida.

Special education must really be imparted to everyone then. Even the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has thought so. Disability rates are significantly higher among groups with lower educational attainment among its members, which include 14 countries.

Moreover, the United Nations Development Program found out that 80% of the PWDs in the world live in developing countries. People also spend 8 years of their life span living with disabilities. The aim of The PWD Forum from the start should still hold after all.

 “The PWD Forum aims to increase the awareness of the ‘normal’ people—particularly those in governments—to the true situation of people with disabilities (PWDs). It would just be a plus if there would be PWDs and non-PWDs alike who would join the discussions and/or initiate the conversations themselves.”

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of Perkins Vision

Sign Language in the UAE

Since last year, Feras and Wael Al Moubayed have been giving people in the UAE a chance to learn sign language for free.

It has been pretty successful that the Kuwaiti brothers, who had their studies in the United Kingdom, wish to start a sign language school that will benefit the hearing-impaired. The project—the Al Ayady School—will expand from the UAE to Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and Egypt.

Not being able to hear has been an experience for Feras and Wael since they were small. Feras has lost his hearing when he was 2 years old, while Wael has lost his when he was just six months old.

The method used in speaking through hand movements and gestures varies from country to country, though. The Al Ayady School will teach British Sign Language (BSL).

In the neighboring regions, a customized lorry would stop to engage the deaf community. The campaign—Hear Us Sign—aims to raise awareness about the importance of sign language and to help integrate those with hearing disabilities into society.

Bedour Al Raqbani, director and founder of the Kalimati Speech Communication Centre in Mirdif thought of it after failing to find ‘suitable care’ for her hearing-impaired daughter, Noora Al Kaabi, four years ago.

It had gone on for 10 days and had served as a ‘curtain raiser’ to the two-day conference “Hear My Voice – Empowering the Deaf”  held afterwards.

There are no statistics about the prevalence of deafness and hearing disabilities in the UAE. The World Health Organization (WHO), however, counts 360 million people—more than 5% of the world’s total population—that have disabling hearing loss.

“‘Our research has shown that to give deaf children the best chance of successful language acquisition, it is important that they are exposed to a sign language from a very young age.” ~Kearsy Cormier of the Deafness Cognition and Language (DCAL) Research Centre

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of the expertvillage

Quezon City

Having around 27,600 persons with disabilities (PWDs) in 2010*, Quezon City has started caring for its PWD residents in August of 2009.

It has considered expanding then the D. Tuazon Elementary School so that the PWDs undergoing treatment or rehabilitation at the National Orthopedic Hospital can study there.

The city has also conducted its first summit for PWDs on this day last year with the theme, “Making Rights Real for Filipinos with Disability.” Involved in the said activity are the Social Services Development Department (SSDD), National Council for Disability Affairs (NCDA), Department of Health (DOH), and the Department of Education-Special Education (DEPED-SPED) Division.

Recently, its current mayor signed Executive Order No. 10 establishing the Quezon City Persons with Disability Affairs Office (QC-PDAO). It will be the lead agency that would address the issues and concerns of PWDs, and will be manned by Arnold de Guzman from the City Planning and Development Office and Renato Cada from the City Public Employment Service Office.

The city has also assigned about 8% of the schools in it to have polling precincts for PWDs. It is ‘doing well with its wheelchair-accessible hallways’ and had given IDs for them that come along with two booklets, the Medicine Purchase Slip Booklet and the Grocery Purchase Slip Booklet.

Problem

But those are not enough.

A father of a child with autism had tried to use the PWD ID to buy his son some donuts at J.CO (SM Fairview). However, the cashier told him that the establishment would not honor the ID unless its holder is present himself/herself. The father ended paying the whole amount of the donuts even though it was his signature at the back of the card.

Dr. Eduardo Janeiro, the regional director of the Center for Health Development (CHD) also observed that there is a need to implement a national health program on disability. Psychosocial and behavioral disabilities are not mental disabilities, after all. Those with them are “educationable” as well as those with learning disabilities.

A precise data on the PWD population is also needed, according to Luz Cabauatan, focal person for PWDs of QC-SSDD. It would really do if the government would not just rely on the estimate from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The representative of the deaf community debated that their sector should not be referred to as hearing-impaired because deafness is not a pathological condition. Flerida Labanon, Regional Program Coordinator of the NCDA, called on to increase the efforts in promoting the rights of the PWDs that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) has endorsed.

“PWDs are part of society. They have the same rights as everybody else.” ` Luz Cabauatan

*Or a total of 1% of the 2,751,579 household population in Quezon City.

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of Travis Kraft