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Mental Health: Stigma in the Philippines

Denise is a communication student, a poet and a book lover. She enjoys watching documentaries and film.

Mental health

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being which affects how we think, feel and act. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in four people in the world will be affected by mental and neurological disorders at some point in their lives and there are around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has also estimated that each year approximately one million people die from suicide, which represents a global mortality rate of 16 people per 100,000 or one death every 40 seconds. It is predicted that by 2020 the rate of death will increase to one every 20 seconds.

Further reports say that in the last 45 years suicide rates have increased by 60% worldwide. Suicide is now among the three leading causes of death among those aged 15-44 (male and female). Suicide attempts are up to 20 times more frequent than completed suicides. Although suicide rates have traditionally been highest among elderly males, rates among young people have been increasing to such an extent that they are now the group at highest risk in a third of all countries including Philippines and mental health problems and disorders are associated with more than 90% of all cases of these suicides.

Mental health in the Philippines

According to 2015 data from the Global Burden of Disease Study, suicide rates in the Philippines are up to 1.9 for females, 5.8 for males, and 3.8 for both sexes for every 100,000 of the general population.

In recent years, there has been an increased awareness towards mental health. The Department of Health (DOH) in the Philippines signed the implementing rules and regulations of the Republic Act No. 11036, otherwise known as the Mental Health Act, which was signed into law on June 20, 2018 and took effect on July 5, that same year, indicating a bright future for mental health care in the Philippines.

Stigma on mental health problems

When it comes to suicide, policy changes will not be immediately felt by service users, and the job isn’t for advocates alone because it includes each one of us.

Treatments are available but nearly two-thirds of people with a known mental disorder never seek help from a health professional because of fear of discrimination, aside from it is costly.

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The social stigma attached to mental health issues makes it hard for people suffering from it to recover or to seek help. When they do, they often receive discrimination not only by the society, but also from their families, friends and relatives. When they try to ask for help, oftentimes, they get neglected or blamed for feeling that way. Thus, preventing them to seek professional help.

This stigma only shows that a lot of Filipinos lack proper understanding and information about mental health and mental health illnesses.

The suicide rates in the country tell that the Philippines is still far from addressing the issue. Apart from the lack of proper information and knowledge about mental health issues, there are other factors that also need to be addressed like the availability of facilities and the price of the services.


Try to recall a memory when you talked to someone who has this feeling of distress and depression, how did you respond to that person? Do you think your response helped?

Sometimes, we speak our thoughts without even truly understanding what the person is dealing with and does causing more harm on their well-being. Oftentimes, we respond in a manner that we thought is helpful but not at all.

These people need professional care and so helping them is not just simply saying, "You'll be fine" or "It's just in your head, just cry." What they really need is an environment and a society that truly understands and accepts them. We need to remove the stigma about mental health and mental health illnesses and stop the discriminating or blaming them for feeling what they are feeling. Mental health is as important as our physical health.

Apart from getting rid of the stigma about it, services and facilities must also be integrated into our primary care.It must be available for anyone who wants to avail it. Aside from that, to raise more awareness, mental health and mental health issues must be taught in schools and institutions.

It sure might take long but every step we take will make a difference.

"Mental health is as important as our physical health."

© 2020 Dens Yang

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