With the rise in mental health issues among Filipinos, it is no longer surprising why many legislators, local celebrities, and influencers are pushing for the passage of a law that would address such needs in the country. Just recently, the Philippine Senate approved the Mental Health Act on third and final reading. But the fight for the Philippine mental health is far from over, according to Dr Sison.
“The Mental Health Act still needs to pass the House of Representatives. What we are pushing for is for them to prioritise its approval,” Dr Sison explained.
Among the areas that the Philippines can take action on for the betterment of mental health in the country include access to mental health professionals, support centres and support groups; affordability of medicine, and most importantly, the sustained awareness regarding the importance of mental health.
“Such sustained awareness will help curb the stigma people have on mental illnesses,” said Dr Sison.
The Philippines ranks first in Facebook usage, and has consistently been among the top five users of YouTube (5th), Twitter (5th), and Google+ (4th). And while social media is one of the most effective channels to disseminate information, it is also, unfortunately, an instrument to distribute false information.
Aside from misinformation on social media, healthcare professionals must be mindful of their posts, as these may reflect negatively on their image as medical practitioners.
Speaking from experience as a core collaborator in #HealthXPh—an online discussion space created and maintained by healthcare stakeholders—Dr Sison said they follow certain guidelines, a manifesto on how they should act on their social media account.
Some of the pointers mentioned in #HealthXPh’s manifesto include not using social media to rant or bash patients and other healthcare professionals; sharing only accurate medical and professional information; promoting health rather than medical products, among others.
As a breast cancer survivor, one issue that Dr Sison is very concerned about is the cost of treatment for cancer in the country.
“The cost of chemotherapy in the Philippines is no joke,” laments Dr Sison. “During my time in 2013, it would cost me Php 85,000 for just one cycle, and I had to undergo six cycles.
“Even though local government agencies like PCSO and PhilHealth have packages for cancer, I feel that it still lacks in reaching out to the marginalised Filipinos.”
Meanwhile, she shared that her fight against the disease shifted her perspectives and priorities in life so much so that today she is more into giving back to society by supporting certain advocacies close to her heart.
“Before my diagnosis, I was not as active as I am now in putting forward my advocacies,” said Dr Sison. “I believe it really is different when you undergo a life-changing test.”
One of the lessons she has learned from winning her battle against cancer is to put health as a priority before anything else—a learning she hopes to share with other doctors like her.
“I would like for us doctors to walk the talk,” Dr Sison advised. “When you tell your patients to do certain things to improve their health, you should follow the same instructions.
“It also allows you to have more conviction in giving guidelines to patients because you, yourself, are following the exact same instructions.” MIMS
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