We are indeed living in mad times.
Throughout last October and early November, our evening news programs and newspapers were filled with headlines about various murders, suicides (and some, murder-suicides) and other crimes of passion. Although for some, these events are just common place and are no longer shocking, for many, it still strikes a delicate nerve, to think that back in 2009 the Philippines ranked 14th among the happiest countries in the world. Filipinos are known to smile and relax despite the onset of various personal or national calamities. And yet, we still have these gruesome deaths going on everyday.
It made me wonder though: What could be running on these people’s minds to commit such dreadful acts?. And with all the psychologists and psychology students we have in this country, what is the state of our society’s mental health?
My curiosity led me to search for statistics regarding the status of our society’s mental health during the last decade as well as the status of our mental health services and facilities. I’ve stumbled upon the following results:
1. The National Statistics Office’s Disability Survey in 2000 ranked mental illness as the third most common form of morbidity, or type of disease, after visual and hearing impairments among Filipinos. The same survey showed that 88 Filipinos out of every 100,000 population with mental problems.
2. In 2004, a DOH-commissioned Social Weather Stations survey found that 0.7 percent of total Filipino households have a family member who has a psychological disorder such as depression, schizophrenia, epilepsy, and substance abuse.
3. A 2006 DOH study showed that 36% of government employees reported to have experienced mental health problems at least once.
4. In a 2007 study by the World Health Organization (WHO), 9 out of 100,000 general population have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. The same survey also showed that there are only 3 mental health workers for every 100,000 population, and that only 0.02% of the health budget is being used for mental health.
Furthermore, I also found out that there is no law on mental health that has been enacted (or pending enactment) in Philippine Congress (probably because they are all schizophrenic as well). With this condition of our country’s mental health and mental health services/facilities, it really is no surprise why crimes of passion are becoming a trend these days.
Which leads my curiosity to another question: “Who should be responsible for making sure that most Filipinos will have access to quality mental health services?”
The incapability of the public sector only means that other sectors of society, most especially the private sector, must be put in the equation to provide at least basic mental health service to our people. But this does not mean that the public sector won’t strive to provide the same services. By applying the current public-private partnership scheme, this could be done. The government could allow private psychiatric firms to operate as part of public hospitals in order to make such service more accessible to the public (but of course, with consideration to the impoverished when it comes to service fees). However, if we really want to strike the issue of mental health from its roots, basic mental health services must also be made available not just in the mental health sector but also in the education and business sectors.
Mental health services must begin in schools through quality guidance and counseling services to students, since it is in these ages where individuals begin to make sense of their mental and emotional conditions. Students face a great deal of stress through bullying, academic pressure, peer pressure and other factors. An an early age, they should made well aware on how to manage their thoughts and emotions given these circumstances. However, not all public and private schools have a working and decent guidance and counseling department.
Also, all private (if not public) companies and firms, whether local or multinational, must have some form of psychiatric service embedded within its human resource department. This is to ensure that the mental health condition of Filipino employees can be monitored and responded to if the need arises. It may be an additional cost for companies, but it will ensure them that their workers are always motivated to work and have high productivity rates.
If legislation about mental health would be enacted, it should contain sections which requires the mental health services I described above. In that way, there will be an across-the-board response to this persistent need for mental health. In the end, this will not just pave the way for better working or living conditions, it could also pave the way for a more just and humane society of Filipinos in the future. TSS