TO PROVIDE a more holistic approach to health, Barangay Lahug in Cebu City unveiled its barangay behavioral health unit (BBHU) on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020.
A first in the Philippines, the BBHU aims to eradicate the stigma of mental illnesses and to increase the awareness of residents on its importance.
The launching of the BBHU is anchored under City Ordinance 2479, entitled “An Ordinance Creating the BBHU within the Barangay Health Center.” The legislation, authored by former councilors Mary Ann de los Santos and Margarita Osmeña, was approved in 2017.
Village chief Hazel Ann Muaña-Empleo said the BBHU is a community-based program that will raise mental health awareness in every household.
“The access of this program in the community helps with preventive measures, early intervention, education and support,” she said.
In a separate interview, de los Santos said it was time to redefine mental health as reports on suicide, depression and drug addiction continue to proliferate.
“It’s medical and mental because it’s practically the mind and body that should be in consonance. Let us take away the stigma about mental health because they associate mental health with mental illness. That should not be the case. It’s all about wellness of the mind and body,” she said.
Program director Manuel Chiong de los Santos said there has been a misconception about mental health in the country for the longest time.
“We cannot define health using physical or medical health (only). We have to define it holistically. We have to take it into the concept of integrated health, meaning healthy body and a very sound mind,” he said.
The BBHU’s main objective includes education; providing support and treatment, which is limited to diagnosis; crisis intervention; and referral system.
The creation of the BBHU was also welcomed by Sen. Risa Hontiveros, author of the Mental Health Law.
The measure, which aims to integrate mental health in the general health care system, was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2018.
“Our body has mental component and physical component and both should be in good condition so that we can be fully functional. I hope you will no longer be afraid to seek help because health is here,” Hontiveros said in a statement. / Mae Fhel Gom-os, USJ-R Intern