Hontiveros: Time to bring mental health issues into light of day


MANILA, Philippines – Former lawmaker and senatorial candidate Risa Hontiveros said it’s time for the government’s health agencies to support mental health.

"If I get to work in the Senate, simula na ako doon sa mga nasimulan na, so susuportahan ko 'yung pagdevelop ng PhilHealth ng benefit packages para sa mental health, both post-trauma o kaya yung addressing depression,” Hontiveros said after Rappler’s 2nd senatorial debate held at the Diliman campus of the University of the Philippines.

(If I get to work in the Senate, I will continue with what I had started. I'll support the development of PhilHealth benefit packages for mental health, both post-trauma or addressing depression.)

Hontiveros, whose platform focuses on universal health care, said the country should start looking at mental health as part of a person’s overall health. (READ: Why do Filipinos need a mental health law?)

“So dapat suportahan ng government by way of legislation, health financing ng PhilHealth, or tamang orientation ng health service providers. 'Yung health delivery systems – maaayos na mental health rooms at wards, hindi na yung mga parang bilangguan noon, horror stories sa basement ng hospital, and whatnot," she said.

(So the government should support by way of legislation health financing of PhilHealth, or the right orientation of health service providers. The health delivery systems – proper mental health rooms and wards, not like prisons before, horro stories at the basement of hospitals, and whatnot.)

When she was still part of the PhilHealth board, she revealed the state corporation already started developing a benefit package for mental health, especially since mental health conditions were on the rise months after Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) struck parts of the country in 2013.

At the same time, Hontiveros said mental health became part of public consciousness when not a few depression-related suicides made it to the news.

Noong panahon after Yolanda, pati first responders lahat nangailangan ng long-term counseling, [they needed to] process trauma, [at] panunumbalik sa mental stability before disaster,” she explained.

(After Yolanda, even first responders also needed long-term counseling. [they needed to] process trauma and restore mental stability before disaster.)

Asked if the benefit package for mental health is a priority of PhilHealth, the former lawmaker answered: "The fact na nagworkshop kami noon at talagang tinatrabaho ng benefit packages development unit ng PhilHealth, so ibig sabihin may mandate at tinatrabaho."

(The fact that we had a workshop before and this was being worked on by the benefit packages development unit of PhilHealth means that the mandate is there and it's being worked on.)

The Philippines has yet to pass a Mental Health Act which will require the government to "uphold the basic right of all Filipinos to mental health and to respect the fundamental rights of people who require mental health services.” (READ: Advocates push for comprehensive PH mental health law) – Rappler.com

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.

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