THEY say that those with mental problems have their own place -- a room where rejection is unseen and a space where they normally act like everybody else.
The National Statistics Office reported in 2000 that 44 out of every 50,000 Filipinos are diagnosed with mental problems. With a population of 92.26 million, this is around 81,188 citizens.
The situation of the mentally-ill individuals in Davao City alone is a concern without a sufficient solution yet. Even though the government has already passed certain laws to give these disabled persons some incentives, it is still not addressed as there are still those who linger around as vagrants in the city streets.
Republic Act 7277 as amended by RA 9442 otherwise known as the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons, as stated by Vice Mayor Inday Sara Duterte, gives the mentally-ill 20 percent discounts to different services offered by both private and public sectors.
However, in reality, this law only applies to mentally-ill individuals who have with them a guardian to help avail of the discounts. While those who are supposed to grant the privileges prescribed by this law sometimes do not regard the mentally ill as among the disabled persons included in such privileges.
In addition, this law only gives discounts to services like hotels, restaurants, theaters, public domestic transportations, dental, and medical privileges. But this RA doesn't address the basic needs of the mentally-ill individuals in the streets other than their need of medicines.
The City Government currently has the City Social Services and Development Office (CSSDO) to look into the different socio-economic problems of the city including the problem of the mentally-ill in the streets. The CSSDO provides programs such as the Kamp Pag-asa, which focuses on children with disabilities.
According to the steps enumerated by the Vice Mayor, persons with disabilities can avail of the government assistance if they are able to obtain an identification card from the CSSDO by applying "personally" before the agency and submit the required documents.
The simple yet inevitable problem of who will help these individuals in the streets get what they need is a question because most of them are already deserted by their families or they have no known relatives at all.
These homeless individuals cannot enjoy the benefits because of the complexity of the process itself and the lack of a legal guardian to prepare the needed documents.
As a result, a number of mentally-ill vagrants without any clear protection or providence from the law will be roaming around the city.
These mentally-ill vagrants become a potential threat to the society and to themselves as well whenever they are left in the streets.
They tend to use garbage cans as source of food. They are also feared by people because some do tend to be aggressive.
To avoid this from happening, the government does its best to put these people inside rehabilitation centers. However, further research proves that these institutions are not conducive for the treatment of the mentally-ill patients.
In 2009, the official disclosed daily budget of the Davao Medical Center-Psychiatric Department averaged to only 31.057 pesos per capita. This amount, if divided into the normal three-meal system, means a measly P10 meal budget.
Ten pesos may feed a person one meal but cannot provide the proper nutrients.
According to research, lack of the necessary nutrients can drastically affect the neurotransmitters of the body including other chemicals found in the brain. If this is so, how then can ten pesos provide the basic nutrition required for the recovery of the patients inside the Davao Medical Center?
Mentally-ill individuals inside the Davao Mental Hospital are not only faced with the lack of good food but also with congestion.
The Davao Medical Center website published that their Psychiatric Department is designed for only 200-250 patients but caters to as many as 400.
According to the report passed to the Vice Mayor's office, the present number of patients admitted to the Davao Mental Hospital is 300 with 147 in the male ward, 98 in the female ward and 55 in the crisis intervention unit.
"The environment should be more conducive to recovery, give comfort to the patient, it should be a second home away from their own respective homes," says Dr. Aneze M. Babista, M.D., Medical Director of the New Day Recovery Center.
By looking at the low funding given by the government towards the Davao Mental Hospital, the question lies whether the mentally challenged should stay inside public rehabilitation centers or just roam around the streets.
In the end, what is left is the fact that these disabled people are being discriminated and labeled as the hopeless ones.
This shouldn't be and isn't all true, Dr. Babista says, adding that some of their staff members are even former patients who have been fully rehabilitated.
Legislators and the community must be educated that having mental illness doesn't necessarily mean a hopeless future. These people can still achieve something with their lives if they are given the right circumstances.
All they need is a little help to start off on their own.