THE Bacolod City Council approved a resolution supporting House Bill No. 6768 known as “Universities and Colleges Mental Health Act” authored by Bacolod Lone District Representative Greg Gasataya.

The proposed law aims to adequately address the mental, emotional and developmental needs of students in state universities and colleges.

The resolution, authored by Councilor Sonya Verdeflor, was approved by the City Council during the regular session last Wednesday.

It cited that in 2004 alone, the Department of Health (DOH) recorded over 4.5 million cases of depression and the DOH reported that only 30 of every 90 affected will seek medical help while the other 60 are ashamed to seek help because of the stigma associated with the illness.

Gasataya said “the lack of legislation, according to leading psychologists and psychiatrists, may well be among the reasons (the) suicide rate continues to increase.”

He said that “despite the alarming state of mental health in the country, there are only 490 psychiatrists for (the) entire population of more than 100 million, and their services remain inaccessible to the poor due to costly consultations.”

In the bill, Gasataya proposed that state universities and colleges (SUCs) should have at least three psychiatrists and other mental health service providers.

“The proposed HB 6768 aims to adequately address the mental, emotional, and developmental needs of SUC students and remove the emotional, behavioral and psychosocial barriers to learning so as to enhance their preparedness and ability to learn and intellectually develop,” the lawmaker said.

The bill mandates school faculty and staff to conduct behavioral interventions to improve student discipline, and develop awareness and skills to identify warning signs of a need for mental health services.

The House Bill No. 6768 also tasks the Secretary of Education, subject to the approval of the Secretary of the Department of Health, to issue the necessary guidelines in the selection, recruitment and hiring of personnel, and the nature and the scope of mental health services to be offered.