Ahead of the Senate budget briefing of the Department of Health (DOH) and its attached agencies, Senator Win Gatchalian said he will seek updates on the rollout of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s (PhilHealth) packages for mental health illnesses.
Gatchalian recalled that in a hearing by the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, PhilHealth said that it is planning a July rollout of a mental health outpatient package. The senator flagged that this package has not been released despite the country facing a pandemic of mental health issues. To date, PhilHealth only offers a P7,800 case rate for confined patients having specific conditions such as dementia, bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorders.
The lawmaker lamented that the high cost of mental health services make it inaccessible to many Filipinos. He noted that a cursory search on the internet would point to packages costing up to P43,800.
“Sisingilin ko ang PhilHealth sa mental health package dahil nangako sila. Noong una natuwa kami dahil may acknowledgement sila na may problema tayo sa mental health at mababa ang ating package, pero wala namang aksyon na nangyari. Sisingilin talaga namin sila dahil nga kung titignan natin yung datos, mahigit 4,000 ang nagpakamatay sa isang taon at 400 ang nagpakamatay mula sa mga paaralan natin kaya talagang may problema tayo pagdating sa mental health,” said Gatchalian, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Basic Education.
The senator also sounded the alarm on the increasing deaths of Filipinos by suicide and phone calls made to the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH). In 2019, the NCMH recorded 3,129 calls, 325 or 10% of which were suicide-related. That year, Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) recorded 2,810 deaths by suicide. In 2020, the year the COVID-19 pandemic struck, calls to the NCMH almost quadrupled to 11,017, while suicide related calls rose to 15% or 1,382. That same year, deaths by suicide almost doubled to 4,892.
For 2022, the number of calls to the NCMH and deaths by suicide remain high. Out of the 18,011 total calls to the NCMH that year, 6,853 were suicide-related. That same year, the PSA recorded 3,103 deaths by suicide.
Gatchalian further emphasized how mental health issues affect learners. For School Year 2021-2022, 404 learners died by suicide.
The Senate recently approved on third and final reading the Basic Education Mental Health and Well-Being Promotion Act, which Gatchalian authored and sponsored. The proposed measure seeks to institutionalize the School-Based Mental Health Program to promote and ensure the mental health and well-being of learners in public and private basic education institutions.