THE national government has been called on to include mental well-being in its basic health services given that more and more people have recognized its impact on their overall conditions.
“It should be delivered in the same manner as the government is delivering the basic health services,” Capstone-Intel Corp. Chief of Public Affairs Atty. Nic. A Conti told reporters in a media briefing held in Quezon City last November 16.
Republic Act No. 11036, or the National Mental Health Law, provides a rights-based mental health legislation and a comprehensive framework for the enforcement of optimal healthcare in the Philippines.
One of its vital mandates is the integration of national mental health services to the delivery of basic health services. Since this is not yet a reality in the country, he attributed this to the reluctance of many Filipinos to deal with it even though they are more cognizant of it.
‘State of Mental Health of Filipinos’ study
BASED on the results of this nationwide survey conducted by Capstone-Intel from September 20 to 27, 93 percent of 1,210 respondents are aware of the term mental health. More than half or 52 percent rated their overall mental health as good; 33 percent, excellent; 13 percent, fair; and two percent, poor. In terms of age group or generation, the boomers (zero percent) don’t feel they have poor mental health, as opposed to Gen X (three percent), Gen Z (two percent), and Millennials (2 percent).
Sixty-five percent of the participants stated that they had experienced an impactful life experience that affected their mental health. Location-wise, more than half have said so, with the Cordillera Administrative Region having the highest level at 89 percent.
Unfortunately, this is not the case for 35 percent who answered “no”, as five percent are unsure. From those who admitted to having issues on their mental well-being due to what happened to them, majority or 79 percent have not consulted with a professional and only 21 percent have done so.
“So the reasons why mental health consultation level is low are the lack of awareness, shortage of facilities and professionals to turn to, and it’s not integrated into the delivery of basic health services,” Conti said, while citing that many people today are still in denial of having a mental problem because of the social stigma that comes with it.
“That’s why research like this is aligned also with the policy of the government that engage information dissemination on mental health issues.”
More than three-fourths or 84 percent reported no diagnosis, while 16 percent said yes. Of the 188 surveyed who bared that they have been diagnosed with such condition, more than half reported to have anxiety disorder (54 percent) and depression (52 percent) depression. Others claimed to have an eating disorder (18 percent), post-traumatic stress disorder (18 percent), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (13 percent), bipolar (13 percent), obsessive-compulsive disorder (7 percent), schizophrenia (7 percent), and other conditions (2 percent). Some would rather not say their concern (9 percent).
Anxiety is higher among female participants (57 percent) compared to their male counterparts (52 percent). The trend is opposite when it comes to depression as it is experienced by more men (53 percent) than women (49 percent).
In terms of responses on current treatment, it varied with 28 percent receiving therapy only, 20 percent using medication only, 19 percent getting both, 17 percent have received treatment in the past, and 16 percent have never sought professional help.
The research, likewise, examined the different strategies employed by respondents to sustain or improve their mental well-being, with a substantial majority or 80 percent indicated that they participate in exercise or physical activities; 72 percent engaged in social interactions with friends and family; 65 percent focused on music, arts, and entertainment; 61 percent practiced mindfulness, meditation, or spirituality; 46 percent resorted to travel; 44 percent prioritized the care of their plants and pets; and 29 percent got involved in arts and crafts.
Courses of action to take
THE findings of the study based on Sentiment Analysis of social media posts of the respondents clearly indicate the need to address mental health issue in the country post-pandemic.
“That could be a guidance on the private sector and the government on how we are going to boost the [mental health] programs,” Capstone-Intel Research and Publications Director Ella Kristina D. Coronel said.
For her, one area such an initiative can be held is within schools, particularly through Physical Education classes. She believes that incorporating mental health education and exercises into the curriculum will enable students to better understand the importance of mental well-being from an early age.
On the other hand, Octa Research Chief Data Scientist Dr. Guido David pointed out the need to address the lack of psychological professionals, which pertains to guidance counselors in schools. On the average, he said that most primary and secondary schools as well as universities in the country usually have only one of them to look for the welfare of the entire student population.
”We have to scale up our staffing. Because they’re understaffed, it’s more difficult for them to reach out to these children or students who are having issues like mental health they are not aware of. If there’s more staff [like them], then we can actually be more proactive rather than reactive. We can do evaluations, assessments of their status, and estimate what courses of action to take,” he said.
Expanding these initiatives beyond schools, regular mental health check-ins should also be encouraged within companies, among employees, and within the wider community. By nurturing a culture of mental well-being and providing the necessary resources, they can collectively work towards a healthier and more resilient society.
“For graduating students who will join the workforce, as well as new or prospective employees, ‘work and life’ balance is important,” Dr. David stressed.