By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Risa Hontiveros on Sunday urged the Department of Health (DOH) and other authorities to help provide mental health support for families affected by the Taal volcano eruption.
Hontiveros said “mental first aid” was essential for disaster victims to help them cope with the stress of their current situation.
The senator, who visited some evacuation sites in Batangas on Sunday, said such mental health aid was important, especially for the children and people now staying in evacuation centers.
“Kailangan ng mental first aid. Maaaring may dalang trauma ang sakuna. Kasama ang mga relief packs at hygiene kits, bigyang-pansin din natin ang play therapy sa mga bata at counseling sa mga magulang, (They need mental first aid. The disaster has brought trauma. So aside from relief packs and hygiene kits, let’s also provide a play therapy for the children and counseling for the parents),” Hontiveros said.
“Psychological and psychosocial support should be part of disaster response. I urge the (DOH) to mobilize mental health professionals and volunteers to respond to this need,” she added.
Hontiveros pointed out that, under the Philippine Mental Health Law, mental health aid is part of disaster response.
“Nawalan ng bahay at hanapbuhay ang marami nating mga kababayan. Malaki ang stress na dulot nito (Many of our constituents lost their house, their livelihood. It brought a lot of stress). We need to make sure that our survivors are able to cope well,” Hontiveros stressed.
“Para naman sa mga bata, maaaring hindi nila lubos na naiintindihan ang mga nangyayari. Ayon sa mga mental health professionals, pwedeng magkaroon ng mga laruan at play therapy sa mga evacuation centers, (As for children, maybe they do not fully realize what is happening. But mental health professionals said they can give toys and start play therapy within evacuation centers),” the senator said.
The lawmaker said she has committed to help the DOH in deploying volunteer mental health professionals in evacuation centers.
“I’ve been talking to mental health professionals. Gusto nilang tumulong. We will assist in deploying them alongside DOH efforts,” Hontiveros said.
Meanwhile, Sen. Leila de Lima renewed her push for the passage of the proposed “Calamity Leave” bill, or Senate Bill No. 1123, which seeks to allow public and private workers to take care of their families and properties when disasters strike.
Under the bill, employees from both the public and private sectors can avail of a five-day special emergency leave upon declaration of a state of calamity by the local government or the President of the Philippines.
“With calamities like typhoons, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions frequently happening in our country, I am reiterating my call for the passage of my proposed bill,” said de Lima.
“Malinaw naman po: sa mga ganitong hindi inaasahang pagkakataon, kinakailangan n gating mga kababayan ang sapat na panahon upang tutukan ang kaligtasan ng pamilya, at kahit paano’y makapagsimulang makabangon mula sa anumang delubyo (It’s clear that during unexpected events, our people need enough time to focus on the safety of their families and at the same time find time to rise again from a tragedy),” she said.