Physician Susan Mercado, special envoy of the President for Global Health Initiative, said it is about time government mainstream health services in helping people with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.
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Remove stigma on mental health, experts urge government
Marc Jayson Cayabyab (The Philippine Star) - July 15, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Health experts have called on the government to mainstream mental health services to remove the stigma associated with it, also lamenting the lack of psychiatrists and psychologists in the country despite the increasing number of suicides.

In an interview with One News’ “The Chiefs” Friday night, Jean Goulbourn, founder of the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation, noted that the Philippines only has 5,000 psychiatrists and psychologists for its population that is expected to hit 109 million this year Goulbourn said it is ironic that in Palawan, which has the highest suicide incidence rate, no psychiatrists and psychologists are available in hospitals.

“We only have less than 5,000 licensed psychiatrists and psychologists and we are a 109 million people,” Goulbourn said.

Citing data from the World Health Organization, Goulbourn said the Philippines may have one of the lowest suicide rates per 100,000 population in Asia, but incidents have increased by 15 percent in the past two decades. 

Physician Susan Mercado, special envoy of the President for Global Health Initiative, said it is about time government mainstream health services in helping people with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.  

Mercado said about three million persons are diagnosed with anxiety and depression in the Philippines and while the number may be overlapping “it’s big enough for it to be a public health problem.”

Mercado noted that the Japanese and Korean governments have phased out mental health facilities two decades ago in a bid to remove the stigma associated with mental health.

She added that the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) in Mandaluyong was in fact designed to be a training and research institution instead of a mental health facility.

“Specialized areas create more stigma. You should be able to go to a general hospital and seek health or care. You mainstream it or integrate it to general health services,” Mercado said.

The experts have also called on the media to report responsibly on suicide incidents by focusing on the life of the deceased, instead of romanticizing suicide or giving details on the method.

Despite the Department of Health’s move to withdraw support for the foundation’s suicide prevention hotline Hopeline, Goulbourn maintained that it is a good move for the department to set up its own crisis hotline because it has the resources.

“Moving forward, it’s very exciting for me because we want Hopeline to be owned by the people,” Goulbourn said.

If you’re experiencing an emotional crisis and in need of help, you may contact Hopeline’s hotline at 804-4673, 09175584673 and 2919 (toll-free for Globe and TM subscribers); or the NCMH hotline at 0917 8998727 (USAP) and 9898727 (USAP).

DEPRESSION SUICIDE
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