Even before the enactment of a law on mental health, the provincial government of Cebu is taking steps to address mental health issues among its residents. For starters, it will provide referrals, and free medication as well as information sources in Cebu Rural Health Units (RHU).

Provincial officials said rural health physicians and municipal health officers have received training to recognize and treat mental health patients. Meanwhile, RHUs will primarily attend to the less serious cases.

On the other hand, extreme cases will be referred to and treated by psychiatrists from the Philippine Mental Health Association.

The Cebu Provincial Health Office (PHO) announced the new mental health programme, according to Sun Star.

The provincial government is hoping that a mental health facility may soon rise in the Pinamungajan town.

For patients needing medication, these are available at RHUs, according to Dr Rannie Corazon-Gravado, PHO Non-communicable Disease Medical Coordinator.

The PHO is also seeking to address the stigma surrounding mental illness by running information drives in communities and in schools and distributing educational materials.

Mental health problems are mostly observed in the areas of San Remegio, Bogo, Medelin and Bantayan, Dr Gravado noted.

In the 2010 World Health Organization study, it noted that 14 percent of the 1.4 million Filipinos with disabilities are afflicted with mental problems.

Though the Philippines has the lowest number of suicides in ASEAN, the problems persist. In 2012, around 2,500 suicides have been noted, more than 2000 of them were among men.

The Philippines, to date, doesn’t have a mental health law in place. However, a bill which seeks to address that recently earned the approval of the Philippine Senate on third and final reading.

The Mental Health Act aims to incorporate the basic mental health services in the public health system such in regional, provincial and tertiary hospitals.

It will also address the stigma and discrimination through information drives in educational and workplace institutions.

DOH has earlier identified mental health programmes to be priority and they will not take a back seat. MIMS

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