By Mario Casayuran
Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros sought the employment of more counselors and more mental health professionals at the V. Luna Hospital and field hospitals to cater to the mental health needs of military men and women.
Hontiveros said this issue during the public hearing of the national defense committee of the Commission on Appointments (CA) on the fitness of Noel S. Clement to be confirmed as general and as chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
The committee later decided to submit the confirmation in the afternoon of Clement and Allan Ferdinand V. Cusi as Vice-Admiral of the Philippine Navy by the CA in the plenary session chaired by Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III, concurrent CA chairman.
Hontiveros pointed out that military men and women are at high risk of mental health programs after their deployment to combat and disaster-stricken areas and being away from their families for a prolonged period.
Citing data from the AFP, the lady senator said that major depressive disorder, schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder are a growing concern.
Hontiveros, who authored the Philippine Mental Health Law signed last year, said that the new law allows for improved facilities, treatment and outpatient care for the mental health of civilians and men and women in uniform alike.
The Philippine Mental Health Law author also urged the AFP to devise programs that will address the stigma surrounding mental health.
Hontiveros said that stigma is still the biggest barrier to treatment. “Conditions get worse because people refuse to get diagnosed or seek treatment because they are afraid that their comrades will ridicule or judge them,’’ she added.