Senator Win Gatchalian is urging the government to step up its efforts to address what he calls a ‘pandemic of mental health’ among Filipinos.
Gatchalian pointed out how the COVID-19 pandemic aggravated Filipinos’ vulnerability to mental health problems. In 2019, the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) received a total of 3,125 calls, 712 of which were suicide-related calls while 2,413 were other mental health related concerns. That same year, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) recorded 2,810 deaths by suicide.
In 2020, the year the COVID-19 pandemic struck, calls made to the NCMH more than tripled to 11,017, suicide-related calls almost quadrupled to 2,841, while other mental-related health calls rose to 8,176. That same year, 4,420 deaths by suicide were recorded.
In 2021, calls made to the NCMH rose again to 14,897, 5,1657 of which were suicide-related calls and 9,730 were other mental-health related calls.
“We can see that we are already in a pandemic of mental health, we should already sound the alarm bells. We are already in the danger zone when it comes to mental health. In 2020, more than 4,000 people committed suicide, parang maliit na barangay na ‘yan, buong barangay nagpakamatay,” said Gatchalian during a public hearing, which reviewed the implementation of the Mental Health Act (Republic Act No. 11036).
While Gatchalian lauded the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s (PhilHealth) initiative to offer an out-patient financing program, which would increase access to mental health services, he pressed the need for the government to do more on mental health issues.
“I implore the Department of Health and PhilHealth to do everything they can, not only to implement the law, but to care for our constituents,” Gatchalian stressed.
Gatchalian also filed as one of his priority measures in this current Congress the Basic Education Mental Health and Well-Being Promotion Act (Senate Bill No. 379), which seeks to strengthen the delivery of mental health services in the country’s basic education schools.