Mental health care should be available at the barangay level: Pangilinan

MANILA – Senator Francis Pangilinan said people experiencing depression or anxiety should not look too far for help.

Mental health care and services should be available and accessible at the barangay level to be able to address the issue before it gets more serious.

“We have taken the first important step of enacting the Philippine Mental Health Law, which will establish national mental health policy directed toward improving the overall health of Filipinos,” Pangilinan said.

This has elevated the conversation about mental health, but still, too many people do not get the help they need, he added.

“Bilang isang bansa, dapat nating tulungan ang isa’t isa, lalo na ang may mental health issues — kapamilya man, kaibigan, katrabaho, o kahit na ang mga hindi natin kilala (As a nation, we must look out for one another, and reach out to those struggling with mental health issues — be it a member of the family, friends, co-workers, or even those unknown to us),” Pangilinan said as the country joins the celebration of the World Mental Health Day.

As a serious and urgent condition, the senator said that aside from the family, among the first responders to a person experiencing depression are barangay health workers in the community.

As such, Pangilinan said that community health workers should have adequate training and skills in handling mental health issues.

“As we deliberate the 2020 budget, we will ask the Department of Health about funding for the Philippine Mental Health Law, which should include training for local government health workers,” he said.

“Bahagi ng pagsisikap na alisin ang stigma sa mga taong nakakaranas ng mental health issues ay ang pagtiyak na maaari silang tumakbo sa gobyerno o mga institusyon na makakatulong sa kanila (Part of the effort to remove the stigma on people experiencing mental health issues is ensuring they can run to the government or institutions that would help them),” he added.

For the 18th Congress, Pangilinan has also filed Senate Bill 258 seeking to exempt drugs and medicines prescribed for mental health conditions from value-added tax.

As the world celebrates Mental Health Day, Pangilinan called on the public to renew its commitment to help rid our society of the stigma associated with mental illness, encourage those living with mental health conditions to get the help they need, and reaffirm the pledge to ensure those who need help have access to the support, acceptance, and resources they deserve.