July 14, 2024

As the world commemorated the World Suicide Prevention Day on Sept. 10, we hope that with the escalating campaign on mental health concerns, more groups, individuals, and institutions have become instruments in preventing deaths related to self-harm, and more people should have become aware that just like everybody else, those with mental health concerns also have rights that have to be respected and valued.
The setting up of helplines, establishment of more counseling offices and hospitals are some of the approaches implemented by the government to help address mental health concerns but six years after the passage of Republic Act 11036, or the National Mental Health Act, the interventions spelled out in the law to address the needs with those with mental health concerns are still wanting.
We still do not have enough mental health professionals that would have been deployed in community hospitals, infrastructure where some of those who need long-term care can be brought are still wanting, barangay health workers are overloaded with the many functions assigned to them, and there is still a lack or even absence of counselors in schools and other institutions.
Maintenance medications for those with psychosocial, psychiatric and neurologic disorders are still expensive, which is why some of those who need to undergo long-term treatment are not able to sustain their medication.
The public as well still lacks understanding about the proper approaches on how to deal with someone who have mental health concerns.
This explains why we hear reports of some families resorting to detaining or abandoning their own family member because of lack of knowledge where to seek help. Some also dismiss as mere drama those who exhibit profound sadness, anxiety, or unusual behaviors.
As the government inches its way into realizing “universal” healthcare, mental health must not be left behind.
The approach in addressing mental health concerns may be intangible but its impact on an individual, the family, the community, and the nation has more far-reaching effects – negative or positive, depending on how it is handled.
If handled properly, we can have a nation whose population is able to enjoy a better quality of life and who can be productive members of society. Having a productive population therefore spells out progress for any nation.
The National Mental Health Act has defined the roles of concerned agencies and attached institutions such as the Departments of Health, Social Welfare and Development, Education, Labor and Employment, and Justice, local government units, Commission on Human Rights, Civil Service Commission, Commission in Higher Education, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and National Mental Health Council in realizing the goals of the law.
Six years after the law’s passage, it is time to assess or audit how far we have gone in complying with some provisions of the law. This way, concerned stakeholders will be able to address those that are wanting.
The campaign concerning mental health concerns should also be strengthened in order to reach more people who might need help, medical intervention, or simply to be educated about mental health.
The more people who get educated about mental health concerns; we are able to reach out to more people who might only need a shoulder to cry on. Who knows, the little acts of kindness we show can save a life.