Mental health law IRR out soon

By Hilda Austria

DAGUPAN CITY -- The implementing rules and regulation (IRR) of the recently approved Republic Act 11036 or the Mental Health Law is now being drafted by the Department of Health (DOH) and is expected to be out within 60 days.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, author and sponsor of the Mental Health Law, during the Media Forum here on Wednesday, said DOH executives have convened on Monday, five days after the law was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte to tackle the IRR.

Hontiveros told newsmen in the province that the law provides three mandates, from which the IRR will be anchored.

“Firstly, DOH is mandated to provide psychiatric, neurologic and psychosocial services to the regional and other tertiary level hospitals. Secondly, they are to add mental health service providers, such as psychiatrist, doctors, nurses, midwives and barangay health workers; further strengthening their capacity to do initial spotting of possible symptoms and refer potential patient or service users. Thirdly, the law mandates the schools and workplaces to have anti-stigma or anti-discrimination programs,” she explained.

She added that with the first mandate, mental health services will no longer be concentrated in national mental health institutions alone, rather mental health services especially primary services, will be accessible even in the barangay level.

“It is more beneficial for patients if the services are community-based and outpatient services, as only a small percentage of patients are in need of institutions,” she said.

She further noted that most of mental health services are concentrated in urban areas, leaving the citizens in rural areas underserved, which the law seeks to address.

Hontiveros admitted that the country is still far from the gold standard of the World Health Organization with the proportion of mental health service providers to the population.

The third mandate, said Hontiveros, aims to “bring out of darkness and silence the issue of mental health, which is not something to be ashamed of or hide or caged, rather to put in touch with each other people with mental health concerns and their family and community, who are the keys to good mental health and healing.”

“I am glad that the DOH officials are very much into this law. Prior to the meeting last Monday, they told me that they will start drafting the IRR,” she said.

The senator added that the law took a long time to be finished, starting in 1990, with its advocates faithfully and consistently filing it for the last two decades.

“This is much needed, despite the fact that among the Asian countries we have the lowest percentage of mental health problems, but data would show that the number is increasing, especially among the youths,” she said.

Depression, suicidal ideation and bipolar disorder are among the common mental health problems in the country, which affect mostly men, Hontiveros said. (PNA)