A day after the Senate's passage of the country's first ever Mental Health law, celebrities and mental health advocates joined Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros in celebrating what they describe as an historic victory for mental health rights.
In a press conference in Quezon City, advocates led by Miss International 2016 Kylie Verzosa, Be Healed Foundation’s Jerika Ejercito and actress Antoinette Taus, lauded the passage of Senate Bill No. 1354, otherwise known as the Philippine Mental Health Law. The bill, which was sponsored and authored by Hontiveros, seeks to integrate mental health services and programs in the public health system by setting up basic mental health services at the community level and psychiatric, psychosocial and neurologic services in all regional, provincial and tertiary hospitals.
"We would like to thank the Senate, particularly Senator Hontiveros for passing this important measure. This bill brings our country one step closer to realizing a national mental health policy that will respond to the Filipinos' mental health needs and erase our record as one of few countries left in Asia without a clear mental health measure," Verzosa said.
Taus said that she hoped that the Senate's passage of the Mental health law will mainstream mental healthcare and remove the stigma and discrimination associated with mental health illnesses. "There is nothing really shameful or embarrassing in talking about one's mental health issues and finding the appropriate healthcare services to address them. Seeing a psychiatrist is no different from visiting your OBGYNE or your ophthalmologist," the actress said.
For her part, Ejercito said that the fight for a mental health law is far from over. She said that the next battle is now in the House of Representatives, which has not yet approved its version of the bill. "While we celebrate this historic victory in the Senate, we must also reserve our energy and prepare for the next battle in convincing our congressional representatives to pass its own version of the bill. We hope Congress will respond positively to our clamor," she said.
Ejercito's statement was echoed by Khryzza Pinzon, Chairperson of the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP). She said that student council leaders are planning a national mental health campus tour to build a strong youth constituency to convince Congress to pass its counterpart bill.
In 2012 alone, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that there were 2,558 cases of Filipinos committing suicide, averaging to 7 suicide cases daily. On the other hand, the Department of Health (DOH) counts that 1 in 5 Filipino adults have some form of mental illness, with schizophrenia, depression and anxiety topping the incidents of disorder.
Hontiveros’ mental health bill was co-authored by Senators Vicente "Tito" Sotto, Loren Legarda, Antonio Trillanes, Bam Aquino, Sonny Angara, and Joel Villanueva.
The press conference was also attended by the Philippine Psychiatric Association, Youth for Mental Health Coalition, Student Council Alliance of the Philippines and different family support groups for mental health.
Cover Photo Caption:[L-R Actress Antoinette Taus, Be Healed Foundation’s Jerika Ejercito, Senator Risa Hontiveros, Miss International 2016 Kylie Verzosa and Student Council Alliance of the Philippines’ Khryzza Pinzon]