'Major victory': Groups hail signing of Philippine Mental Health law

'We say goodbye to taboo, superstition, and myths about mental health issues now that services are made accessible for all citizens,' says Akbayan spokesperson Gio Tingson


Published: 8:40 AM June 21, 2018

Updated: 8:40 AM June 21, 2018

MANILA, Philippines – Advocates consider President Rodrigo Duterte's signing of the Philippine Mental Health law a "major victory."

The Youth for Mental Health Coalition, a group of student organizations and youth advocates, described the journey to the law's passage as a "decades-long battle in the legislative arena." (READ: How does the PH fare in mental health care?)

The coalition noted that the new law is "the first legislation that protects rights and welfare of people with mental health conditions, shifts focus of care to the community, improves access to services, and integrates mental health in the schools and workplaces."

In a statement, Silakbo.ph, an art and mental health publication, said people could now have more avenues to access help.

"These people now have a fighting chance at treatment, recovery, and a better life," added Silakbo.ph.

"The fight doesn't happen in a vacuum and social environment plays a huge role in mental health issues.... We cannot begin to address the mental health of these marginalized sectors without first safeguarding their physical safety, fundamental human rights, and human dignity."

As with any law, however, the bigger challenge lies in implementation. (READ: Why do Filipinos need a mental health law?)

"This only [sets] the precedent for real change and mental health awareness in Philippine society. Let us monitor the law's IRR (implementing rules and regulations) and keep track of concerned government and non-government agencies," said Silakbo.ph.

Meanwhile, the Isanliyab Servant Leaders' Union (ISLU), a student organization at Far Eastern University, sees the passage of the law as part of the advancement of a "mass-oriented and pro-people health care system."

The new law, added ISLU, should serve as a reminder of other social conditions that affect people's health.

"While we cherish this victory, we must advance and elevate our call and battle for a truly inclusive and progressive health care system that serves all, especially the marginalized," the group said.

The Akbayan party, of which the law's principal authors Senator Risa Hontiveros and Representative Tom Villarin are part of, said its passage is "a collective effort and victory of advocates, health workers, and lawmakers."

"We say goodbye to taboo, superstition, and myths about mental health issues now that services are made accessible for all citizens," added Akbayan spokesperson Gio Tingson.

Mental health advocates expressed their support with the hashtags #HelpIsHere, #MoveForMH, and #MentalHealthForAll. – with reports from Samantha Bagayas/Rappler.com