SENATOR Risa Hontiveros, chair of the Senate Committee on Health, has expressed a need for a Mental Health Law in the Philippines. She and Senator Joel Villanueva filed the Mental Health Act of 2016 on October 6, 2016.

This is an act establishing a national mental health policy for the purpose of enhancing the delivery of integrated mental health services, promoting and protecting persons utilizing psychiatric, neurologic and psychological health services, appropriating funds therefore and for other purposes.

She said that one of five adult Filipinos suffer from mental or psychiatric disorder. This represents an average of 88 reported cases of mental illness for every 100,000 Filipinos.

The new Philippine Health Information System on Mental Health reported that schizophrenia is the most common mental disorder for Filipinos. A survey was made to 2,562 mental health sufferers from 14 public and private hospitals from May 2014 to May 2016.

Other common disorders are depression, anxiety, acute and transient disorder, and schizoaffective disorder.

Schizophrenia is serious mental illness that interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions and relate to others. It is a complex, long-term medical illness, affecting many Filipinos. It is a thought disorder characterized by delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech or behavior.

Depression (major depressive disorder) is a serious mood disorder. There are feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and unworthiness.

Anxiety is the body’s natural response to danger, an automatic alarm that goes off when you feel threatened, under pressure, or are facing a stressful situation. Some examples of anxiety disorders are phobias (having irrational fears of a specific object or activity) and post traumatic stress disorder (having nightmares or flashbacks after experiencing a threatening event).

Schizoaffective disorder has symptoms of schizophrenia that exist concurrently with depressive, manic or both kinds of mood symptoms.

Acute and Transient disorder are a group of conditions characterized by the following features: the occurrence of delusions, hallucinations or incomprehensible speech and or symptoms not accounted for by a mood disorder, delirium, substance abuse or a general medical condition.

Stimulant-related disorder captures a range of problems associated with the use of a wide variety of stimulant drugs, including meth, cocaine and amphetamines but not including caffeine or nicotine. Examples of these are substance use disorders and substance induced disorders.

There are still many unreported cases. People who experience mental health problems still deny or are afraid to get help.

It’s okay to ask for help. One may have a medical condition. There are professionals and concerned people who care. No one is alone. There are people who will not judge you.

In schools, one can visit the Guidance Office. Non-students can visit a psychiatrist or talk to a church leader (pastor or priest) or a friend.

The Department of Health (DOH) led by Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial is also someone who cares. She said that she will include mental health as one of the primary health concerns under her leadership. She signed an administrative order on October 2016 increasing the budget from P36 million to P220 million.

DOH and Natasha Goulbourn Foundation has partnered for a Hopeline. People who suffer an emotional crisis can call 09175584673 or (02) 804-4673. For Globe and TM subscribers, they can dial 2919.