Sen. Pia backs mental health bill

Sen. Pia Cayetano vows to file mental health bill
By Trisha Macas
Reposted from GMA News Online
30 October 2014

Senator Pia Cayetano told the attendees of the Second Healthy Mind Summit in Taguig City on Wednesday that she would be “honored” to file the Mental Health bill.

The bill’s draft was endorsed by doctors Edgardo Juan Tolentino, the president of the Philippine Psychiatric Association, and June Caridad Lopez, the head of the legislation committee that put together the draft.

She also said she will work closely with Senator Teofisto Guingona III, who heads the Senate Committee on Health and Demography.

Cayetano said that mental health should be seen as a significant component of overall health.

“We are not just concerned with those who have mental illnesses, we are looking at the mental wellness of the entire population,” she added.

Overview of the Mental Health Act draft

According to Lopez, the draft of the Mental Health Act closely follows the guidelines laid out by the World Health Organization (WHO) on mental health, specifically the Mental Health Legislation and Human Rights of 2003, which says:

“All people with mental disorders have the right to receive high-quality treatment and care delivered through responsive health care services. They should be protected against any form of inhuman treatment and discrimination.”

Having a legal framework such as a Mental Health Act would help protect those who have mental health needs, Lopez said.

The proposed Philippine mental health bill has three main components:

- The protection of rights of person with mental health needs
- The duties of the state and health authorities
- The development of mental health services through the creation of a Philippine Medical Health Council

The Senate committee zeroed in these components by mapping the relevant laws and determining the recent statistics online survey, holding pre-summit activities to identify the barriers and good practices in providing mental health services, and enacting the Manila Declaration on the promotion of mental health and the care of persons with mental illness at a pre-summit event on July 31.

It was then that the different sectors and stakeholders involved all agreed to base the Mental Health Act on some principles:

- There is no wealth without mental health
- Mentally ill persons have fundamental human rights of persons
- The Philippines, as a State Party to various universal conventions and standards, has obligations to protect and promote these rights

Spreading the word

Although Cayetano said she will file the bill, she emphasized that the passage of the mental health bill into law is still in the hands of the country’s leader.

Nonetheless, the senator encouraged the attendees of the summit to get the word out about the importance of mental health through social media accounts and other media to get more support.

To this end, the Philippine Psychiatric Association set up an online petition, “Make the country’s first Mental Health Act happen. #MHActNow” to get more people involved in pushing for the act.

“In our country, mental health problems have too long been dismissed as a second priority. This needs to change. Make the first Mental Health Act happen,” the petition said.

If the Mental Health Act were to be filed and passed, the Philippines would no longer be part of the 33 percent in Southeast Asia with no legislation on this issue. — BM/JDS, GMA News

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