The World Health Organization reported there are 450 million individuals around the globe who are struggling with some form of mental health issue. On the estimate of the agency, 1 in 4 persons will be affected by mental health problems at some point in their lives.
In the Philippines, there’s still a lot of stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health issues. For instance, data from the WHO said that between 2000 and 2012, there were 2,000 cases of suicide for individuals between 15 to 29 years old.
The numbers might even be conservative. Nobody talks about depression in this part of the world because of our tendency to make light of any tragic situation. We have simple answers to complex problems.
Instead of a sympathetic ear, depressed individuals may even be teased, mocked, ridiculed. It’s not uncommon that they are reprimanded. Like their mental disorder is some sort of punishment for their weak faith in God, perhaps.
So it is in this context that we commend the local government on its plan to build a facility to provide intervention to homeless persons with mental disorders in the city.
Mayor Sara Duterte said that the facility will have a budget of P23 million and they are only looking for a property to construct the building. If this pushes through, it will become the first such facility in the country.
The announcement came more than a year after President Duterte signed Republic Act No. 11036 or the Philippine Mental Health Law in June of 2018. The law will set a roadmap in providing health services down to the grassroots level.
We understand that the local government’s resources are already stretched to fund programs to improve the lives of its more than 1.6 million people. It would have been easy to use the money to spend on other social services. But being able to recognize that mental health is a serious issue, which shouldn’t be swept under the rug is noteworthy of praise.
Homelessness will only add to the mental strain of these people. They are also at risk of developing alcohol and drug abuse, which are gateways to crime.