Mental Health Awareness in the Philippines

Published on: 09/10/2020

Our mental health is key to our overall well-being. Let us know more about the status and awareness campaign in the Philippines.

With the availability of more and more information on mental health, the world is slowly working to remove the stigma surrounding the disorders that affect our mental well-being. In the Philippines, there have been increased numbers of conversations over suicide, depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric problems. 

As we celebrate National Mental Health Week, we are being reminded anew how mental health problems are a growing concern in our country. According to the Department of Health (DOH), about 19 million Filipinos are affected by psychiatric problems such as schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, and bipolar disorder. An alarming report to note, the National Statistics Authority cites mental illness as the third most prevalent form of morbidity. 

Why is Mental Health Important?

Mental health, which encompasses our psychological, emotional, and social well-being, is essential for us to live a healthy life. This is where our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors depend on, and it determines how we make decisions and how we relate to others.

When mental health disorders arise, we may observe abnormalities in our everyday life, particularly in our sleeping and eating patterns. Severe mood swings, a decrease in energy, feelings of helplessness, and thoughts of self-harm may also indicate possible mental illnesses. states biological components (such as our genes or brain chemistry), life experiences (which include trauma and abuse), and family history of mental health disorders are the three factors that contribute to mental health problems. 

Shifting a Nation’s Perspective on Mental Health

Because mental health disorders are not as evident as physical diseases, it is relatively easy to shrug them off or deny them. With the signing of the Philippines Mental Health law, more action is now being done for a clearer understanding of mental health issues in the country. Through the government’s support, more psychiatric services and programs are made available for mental health patients nowadays. 

In 2019, after the suicide of popular local drummer Brian Velasco, the DOH enjoined Filipinos to start talking about depression, acknowledging this is a serious health issue that can worsen if left unattended. Mental health advocates are also setting up more venues for dialogues and are constantly voicing out their concerns on inappropriate remarks about mental health, especially on social media.

Mental Health Treatment in the Philippines

There are about 700 psychiatrists and 1,000 psychiatric nurses in our country. There are also 60 psychiatric facilities and four government-run mental facilities which include the National Center for Mental Health in Mandaluyong. 

Nevertheless, not everyone can readily access professional help. The cost of therapy and medication can be a problem, with consultation fees alone ranging from P400 to P4500. 

Fortunately, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) is now offering mental health packages. Through partnership with the National Center for Mental Health, the DOH was also able to launch a nationwide mental crisis hotline for those needing immediate counseling, and even treatment. We can also expect more mental health programs from the DOH as they continue to enact the provisions of the Mental Health Act. 

Taking Care of Your Mental Health

Considering that these are unprecedented times, it makes it so much more important to take care of one’s mental health.

University of Michigan mental health experts advised we should take care of our physical body by eating nutritious meals, drinking plenty of water, exercising, and getting enough rest. Make sure that you also treat yourself with respect and avoid harsh self-criticism. They also suggest that it is necessary to surround yourself with positive influences and meaningful relationships - family and friends who can be your support system. Aside from these, learning how to deal with stress is also a key, whether this is through mindfulness activities, journaling, or even just by making sure you are setting realistic goals for yourself.

Lastly, know that you can ask help when you need it. Reach out and talk to people about your situation, or seek professional care if necessary. Keep in mind that asking for help is not a form of weakness, but of strength. 

Talk to a Mental Health Professional. Here are the numbers for the DOH Mental Crisis Hotline:

  • 0917-899-USAP (8727)
  • 989-USAP (8727)