AMID the growing incidence of depression and suicide amid lockdown measures, the chairman of the House Committee on People’s Participation on Sunday called on Congress to prioritize mental health bills.

Lone San Jose Del Monte City, Bulacan, Rep. Florida “Rida” P. Robes made the call during the Philippine Press Institute online forum entitled “Nakakaloka, A Silent Pandemic: The Impact of Covid-19 on mental health” in which she was one the guest speakers.

Robes said she has been receiving various reports on mental health issues due to the uncertainties created by the pandemic.

She reiterated that mental illnesses have been on the rise the past decades and the pandemic has made it even worse.

But the problem has been less prioritized by the government with only around five percent being allotted to mental health in the overall budget of the Department of Health.

This is the reason, she said, why she filed House Bill 9980 establishing a mental health clinic in San Jose Del Monte City, which will be the first of its kind in the country if passed into law.

The House of Representatives has approved the said bill last month on third and final reading and is waiting for Senate approval.

Robes said the mental health clinic in San Jose Del Monte will be funded and managed by the city government in conjunction with the DOH. It will provide services that include counseling and therapy, crisis counseling and intervention, medication, evaluation and management, group therapy, mindfulness meditation, after-hours care and other psychiatric services.

It will also provide psychotherapy services to patients on a multiple of issues including the management of difficult emotions, anxiety and stress, childhood trauma, cross cultural issues, life transitions, depression, parenting issues, post-traumatic stress disorder, domestic abuse and family and interpersonal conflicts.

Robes said she also co-authored several bills which aim to strengthen mental health services in schools, colleges and universities. She said HB 10284 (An Act Strengthening the Mental Health Services of State Universities and Colleges) and HB 10327 (An Act Strengthening the Promotion and Delivery of Mental Health Services Through Hiring and Deployment of Mental Health Professionals) had been approved by the Committee on Health and is up for approval on second reading when session resumes next month.

She hopes “these two bills get approved by the House of Representatives when session resumes next month and that the Senate moves in the same direction on mental health issues.”

“This is an issue that is close to my heart because I know many people who are experiencing depression, anxiety, helplessness at this very difficult time,” Robes said. “I myself have experienced those feelings when Covid-19 came close to our home.”

The lawmaker added she believes that “as much as we work to address Covid-19, we should also give the same attention to our mental health because this is what will have a greater impact on our well-being as we recover from this pandemic.”

Robes said this “is what I will continue to advocate in Congress and for the people of San Jose Del Monte City.”





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