Duterte signs Philippine Mental Health Law

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 21) — President Rodrigo Duterte has signed the Philippine Mental Health Law, or Republic Act 11036, which aims to give better access to mental health care, officials said Thursday.

The signing of the measure into law was confirmed by its proponents, Senators Risa Hontiveros and Sonny Angara, as well as by Special Assistant to the President Bong Go.

"No longer shall Filipinos suffer silently in the dark. Mental health issues will now cease to be seen as an invisible sickness spoken only in whispers," said Senator Hontiveros, former chair of the Senate committee on health.

For his part, Senator Angara commended President Rodrigo Duterte for the law's passage.

"We commend President Rodrigo Duterte for signing into law the Mental Health Act… we hope that this law will help Filipinos overcome the stigma of mental illness, and enable them to seek professional help," Angara said in his statement.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that the act shows President Rodrigo Duterte's commitment to providing mental health care to Filipinos.

"It forms part of the government's mandate to design and implement a national mental health program and integrate this as part of the health information system, among others," Roque said in a statement.

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The law seeks to provide mental health services down to the barangay level, and integrate mental health programs in hospitals. It also seeks to improve mental health facilities and to promote mental health education in schools and workplaces.

The bill also calls on the government health insurance provider PhilHealth to cover psychiatric consultations and medicines, and not just hospitalization.

Meanwhile, youth mental health group Silakbo PH, which had lobbied for the signing of the law, said that the measure's implementing rules and regulations (IRR) should be monitored to ensure that they are implemented without discrimination.

"Let us monitor the law's IRR and keep track of concerned government and non-government agencies," Silakbo PH said in a statement. "The fight doesn't happen in a vacuum and social environment plays a huge role in mental health issues, so let us support the LGBTQIA+, women, children, the impoverished, workers in unjust conditions, ethnic and racial minorities."

The World Health Organization (WHO) in a 2014 report said that in 2012, there was an approximate 2,558 cases of suicide due to mental health problems in the Philippines alone.