Solon urges gov't to prioritize pandemic-triggered mental health problems

Published October 25, 2021, 12:46 PM

by Ben Rosario

As COVID-19 infections in the country start to wane, government must take this opportunity in prioritizing mental health issues that have confronted Filipinos as a result of the pandemic.

Rep. Florida Robes2

San Jose del Monte Rep. Florida “Rida” P. Robes aired this call as she noted a growing incidence of depression, anxiety and suicide among Filipinos severely affected by various problems triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking during the Philippine Press Institute online forum entitled “Nakakaloka, A Silent Pandemic: The Impact of Covid-19 on mental health, Robes lamented that health authorities have concentrated efforts in addressing the dreaded COVID-19 disease, giving less priority to the mental health issues the pandemic has triggered.

Robes, chairperson of the House Committee on People’s Participation, told the forum that she has been receiving various reports on mental health issues due to the uncertainties created by the pandemic.

She pointed out that mental illnesses have been on the rise the past decades and the pandemic has made it even worse.

But the problem has been less prioritized by the government with only around 5 percent being allotted to mental health in the overall budget of the Department of Health.

The Bulacan lawmaker noted that this is the reason why she filed House Bill 9980 establishing a mental health clinic in San Jose Del Monte City in Bulacan, which will be the first of its kind in the country if passed into law.

The House of Representatives has approved the said bill last month on third and final reading and is waiting for Senate approval.

She said the mental health clinic in SJDM will be be funded and managed by the city government in conjunction with the Department of Health.

It will provide services that include counseling and therapy, crisis counseling and intervention, medication, evaluation and management, group therapy, mindfulness meditation, after-hours care and other psychiatric services.

It will also provide psychotherapy services to patients on a multiple of issues including the management of difficult emotions, anxiety and stress, childhood trauma, cross cultural issues, life transitions, depression, parenting issues, post-traumatic stress disorder, domestic abuse and family and interpersonal conflicts.

Robes said she also co-authored several bills which aim to strengthen mental health services in schools, colleges and universities. She said HB 10284 (An Act Strengthening the Mental Health Services of State Universities and Colleges) and HB 10327 (An Act Strengthening the Promotion and Delivery of Mental Health Services Through Hiring and Deployment of Mental Health Professionals) had been approved by the Committee on Health and is up for approval on second reading when session resumes next month.

“I am hoping that these two bills get approved by the House of Representatives when session resumes next month and that the Senate moves in the same direction on mental health issues. I myself have experienced those feelings when Covid-19 came close to our home,” she said.