Mental health bill enacted after 20 years

President Rodrigo Duterte has signed Republic Act 11036, or the Philippine Mental Health Law, which aims to shed more light on the mental health of Filipinos.

The issue of mental health has been in the limelight following the recent suicide deaths of known personalities Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain and the sister of Queen Maxima of Denmark.

The Philippines is the last country to pass a mental health law in Southeast Asia.

“No longer shall Filipinos suffer silently in the dark,” Senator Risa Hontiveros said in a statement on Thursday. 

Hontiveros is one of the authors and the principal sponsor of the bill along with Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senators Loren Legarda, Sonny Trillanes, Bam Aquino, Sonny Angara and Joel Villanueva.

In other developments:

• Deputy Speaker and Marikina Rep. Romero Quimbo on Thursday hailed the signing into law of the Mental Health Law.

“Truly fantastic news. It is a bill that languished in Congress for almost 20 years,” Quimbo said. 

“Finally, the long wait is over. Today’s signing of the Mental Health Law will hopefully usher in the prevention of thousands of suicides that have been plaguing our country.”

Quimbo was the principal author of the House version of the then Mental Health Act. 

• The enactment into law of the Mental Health Act is a huge step in making mental health care more affordable, accessible and equitable, Senator Juan Edgardo Angara said, but he renewed his call to PhilHealth to cover the fees for psychiatric consultations and medicines, saying early intervention and prevention was crucial in treating mental illness.

Under the Mental Health Act, he said, PhilHealth must “ensure that insurance packages equivalent to those covering the physical disorders of comparable impact are available to patients affected by mental disorders.”

PhilHealth now only covers hospitalization brought about by an acute attack of mental and behavioral disorder at a package rate of P7,800.

Hontiveros said that the new law would finally “secure the rights and welfare of people with mental health needs.” 

She said it would finally be providing mental health services down to the smallest branch of the government, improving the country’s capability to properly handle mental health issues.

Among the law’s coverage is the provision of mental health services from health care facilities up to promoting mental health education in schools and workplaces where mental health risks are more prevalent. 

The law also hopes to de-stigmatize and prevent political discrimination, give access to affordable essential health and social services, and increase research and development on different mental health advocacy and treatment.

The signed law may be considered a breakthrough effort of the government in providing not only physical health but also mental well-being, which is being given less priority because of the stigma attached to it. With Maricel V. Cruz and Macon Ramos-Araneta

Topics: President Rodrigo Duterte , Philippine Mental Health Law , mental health , Kate Spade , Anthony Bourdain
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