As more people come out to share their mental health stories, the stigma attached to mental health issues has started to diminish. However, of the top three mental illnesses in the country, schizophrenia remains to be the least understood, compared to depression and anxiety.
Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental illness characterized by hallucinations and delusions that affect language, perception, and motor behavior. According to the World Health Organization, about one in 250 people in the world suffers from this disorder. In the Philippines, it is the top brain disorder, affecting at least 42 percent of patients who seek psychological treatment and consultation, according to the latest data from the Philippine Health Information System.
The PHIS-MH is the country’s first public-private mental health information system. Launched by Johnson & Johnson Philippines in 2014. The system aims to improve data gathering on mental health and provide the Philippine government with the necessary information to help them adequately address mental health issues in the country. To date, PHIS-MIS has been able to gather approximately 2,500 data entries from 10 government and four private hospitals and healthcare facilities and institutions nationwide.
“Among Filipinos, mental illnesses are more prevalent than commonly believed, and unfortunately, their psychological symptoms are often linked to insanity,” said Dr. Erwin Benedicto, senior manager, Scientific Affairs and Medical Compliance of Johnson & Johnson Philippines Inc. “We should tear down this thinking in order to support people with this disease, and encourage them and their families to seek professional help.”
Mental health disorders rank third in the most common disabilities in the country, affecting one in every five Filipino adults, according to the WHO. Furthermore, PHIS-MS data show that majority of the patients diagnosed with schizophrenia are of working age (20 to 44 years); this does not bode well for Filipinos afflicted with schizophrenia, as it is most common during their most productive years.
Schizophrenia could adversely affect patients’ lives in terms of work or academic performance, along with peer and familial relationships. This deterioration in performance and relationships could in turn negatively impact their daily activities, and even lead those suffering from the disease to neglect their needs, such as nutrition, hygiene, and self-care.
Treatment for schizophrenia does exist to help patients lead productive and healthy lives, said Dr. Benedicto. Anti-psychotic medication is readily available at accredited clinics and hospitals, he said.
“As a global leader in healthcare, we want to make sure that every Filipino has the right tools and information to allow them to live happy, healthy, and productive lives,” said Dr. Benedicto He continued, “That is why we develop initiatives and continue to partner with local organizations who share our advocacy to create a healthier Philippines.”
In 2013, Johnson & Johnson Philippines, Inc., through its pharmaceutical arm Janssen Pharmaceuticals, had co-produced a short film entitled “Mga Anino ng Kahapon,” a full-length independent feature that challenges stereotypes associated with schizophrenia. Written and directed by Alvin Yapan, the short film was part of the 2013 Metro Manila Film Festival New Wave program where it won Best Actress for lead actor Agot Isidro, as well as a Special Jury Prize.
“Mga Anino” continues to be shown in schools, hospitals, and other patient support activities to promote understanding of the disorder and spread awareness on the availability of treatment for people with schizophrenia.
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