The Department of Health (DOH) is intensifying its efforts to address mental health issues through a mental health caravan that provides accessible services and free medications.
The recently launched “Biyaheng Kalusugan: Mental Health Caravan” at Sorsogon State University, Sorsogon City, represents a significant step forward in prioritising mental health on a national scale.
DOH Undersecretary Dr Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire emphasised the importance of fostering healthy mental well-being and behaviours, particularly among young adults. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) backs the DOH in this initiative. It aims to elevate the well-being of Filipinos, fostering greater happiness, health, and productivity in their lives.
As part of the Health Promotion Framework Strategy 2021 to 2030, DOH promotes the “Seven Healthy Habits” as a foundation for population-wide solutions to key health areas. These habits encompass promoting physical activity, maintaining a balanced diet, sustainable living, vaccination, avoiding substances like tobacco and alcohol, self-care, safe sex practices, and prioritising safety.
Mental Health Caravan Services
The mental health caravan is themed “Make Mental Health and Well-being a Global Priority”. This campaign consists of health agencies working together. It will be propagated to various regions in the country to deliver accessible and high-quality healthcare services, encompassing mental health interventions, to all Filipinos at affordable rates.
The program has a diverse array of booths. Each booth provides guidance and support for the general public and students facing mental health challenges. These booths offer a wealth of information, tools, and assistance for individuals to explore and access the resources they need to address and navigate mental health concerns effectively.
Mental Health in the Philippines
During a World Mental Health Day event, the president of the Philippine Mental Health Association Inc. (PMHA), Dr. Cornelio Banaag Jr., highlighted the alarming rise in mental health concerns across various demographics in the Philippines. Filipinos, regardless of age or socioeconomic background, are actively struggling with mental health-related issues. Hence, a proactive approach was necessary to address the crisis.
According to the Department of Health (DOH), mental illness is becoming a common disability in the Philippines. At least 3.6 million individuals are dealing with mental, neurological, and substance use disorders. Additionally, the PMHA noted that access to help is still limited and unequal due to persistent stigma and scarce resources. Compounding the issue is the striking statistic that there is less than one mental health worker for every 100,000 Filipinos.
Community-Based Mental Health Program
DOH plans to actively launch a Community-Based Mental Health Program as an integrated approach to deliver comprehensive mental health services in villages. This initiative involves actively training healthcare workers and implementing the program in pilot sites. Sorsogon City was chosen as one such site.
Accessible Mental Health Care
The DOH has actively established known access sites for mental health care services nationwide and provides free medications for those in need. Last year, the department served 161,000 service users and established 75 additional mental health facilities. Adequate budget allocation ensures the procurement of medicines, and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation offers a benefits package for mental health.
The rising mental health crisis in the Philippines actively demands immediate attention and action. As the PMHA bravely highlights the challenges and actively calls for a comprehensive response, the nation must unite in fostering a culture of understanding, empathy, and support for mental health.
The DOH’s commitment to mental health is actively evident through its multifaceted approach, including awareness campaigns, access to services, and the active launch of the “Biyaheng Kalusugan: Mental Health Caravan.” These initiatives actively underscore the government’s dedication to addressing the mental health needs of the Filipino population.