Philippine Senate Approves Mental Health Bill

On the third and final reading, the Senate of the Philippines finally approved the Philippine Mental Health Bill, an act that would create a national mental health policy.

In an aim to create a national mental health policy, the Senate of the Philippines has finally approved a mental health bill on its third and final reading.

According to news reports, after the Philippine Senate resumes its session early this month, the same approved the Senate Bill No. 1345 or the Mental Health Bill. The proposed law is actually the first of its kind the country.

The said bill was filed on February 17 this year, and has been approved on the third and final reading with 19 favorable votes, no negative vote and no abstention.

The proposed law was principally drafted by Sen. Vicente “Tito” Sotto III and co-authored by Sen. Loren Legarda, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, Sen. Bam Aquino, Sen. Sonny Angara and Sen. Joel Villanueva, while it was sponsored by Sen. Risa Hontiveros.

The Senate Bill would integrate the country’s mental health services and programs in the public health system. It also directs the government to provide basic mental health services at the community level and psychiatric, psychosocial and neurologic services all hospitals across the country.

As for Sen. Hontiveros, the passage of the proposed law is historic as the country is only one of the few countries in the world that still does not have an existing national policy regarding mental health. Thus, she is grateful that her fellow senators, particularly the current Health committee chairman, Sen. JV Ejercito, backed and supported the bill.

"This is a historic day for all of us. After being one of the few countries left without a mental health policy, we are now one step closer to realizing a national mental health law to comprehensively address the Filipinos’ mental health needs and ensure that our rights as persons with mental health needs are protected and secured.. Because of this measure, our people with mental health needs will no longer suffer silently in the dark. They will no longer endure an invisible illness and fight an invisible war,"

Sen. Risa Hontiveros

Hontiveros cited that in 2012 alone, the World Health Organization has reported 2,558 cases of Filipinos committing suicide, or an average of seven cases a day. She further cited that one out of five Filipino adults suffer from some form of mental illnesses with schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression, topping the incidences of the disorder.

During the last and final reading, mental health advocates headed by Miss International 2016, Kylie Verzosa, Antoinette Taus and Jerika Ejercito, were present to show their support as well as to applaud the passage of the proposed law.

Meanwhile, a Technical Working Group is already working on integrating a similar counterpart bill at the House of Representatives, news reports added.

Aizelle Joe