Belmonte stresses importance of mental health in communities

Belmonte stresses importance of mental health in communities

By Rjhay E. Laurea

MANILA — Mayor Joy Belmonte on Monday stressed the “right to health, which includes the right to mental health, is a fundamental right we all must strive to achieve.”

She noted the importance of prioritizing and addressing mental health problems and issues during the National Mental Health Summit at SM Aura Premier in Taguig City.

Included in the initiatives that the mayor mentioned is the enactment of the Quezon City Mental Health code which incorporates all the existing mental health programs of the city government. It also localizes Republic Act 11036 or the Mental Health Act.

“Napakahalagang pag-usapan ang mental health kasi (It is important to talk about mental health because) the more you talk about it, the less it becomes taboo and the less it becomes a stigma and the more mainstream it becomes. That is what we want. We want to consider it as a regular illness na pwedeng gamutin at pagalingin (that can be medicated and cured),” Mayor Belmonte said.

Based on the Quezon City Police District’s data, there has been a steady increase in the incidence of suicide for the past five years, with an average of 96 suicides in QC annually. From 2018 to 2020, the police recorded a 52 percent increase in the figure. Belmonte lamented, however, that insufficient and unavailability of data is also a hindrance in addressing mental health-related issues.

Under the proposed QC Mental Health Code authored by Councilors Dorothy Delarmente, Bernard Herrera, Aly Medalla, and Noe Dela Fuente, the city will intensify the initiatives of the local government through institutionalizing training and awareness-raising among local service providers including city hall employees, barangay officials, and school teaching and non-teaching personnel.

Mental Wellness Access Hubs in the communities will also be expanded to further capacitate them in conducting assessments, diagnosis, crisis intervention, and disbursement of free prescription medication. A 24/7 Mental Health Hotline, linked to service providers, will also be established to respond to emergency calls from QC residents.

A Mental Health Half-way Home will likewise be built that will serve as a temporary housing facility for recovering service users and will offer therapy, vocational training, and job coaching.

An information and service delivery network will also be put in place that will pool together all specialists and will serve as a referral network to assist service users and their families as well as service providers.

As the city believes that the environment plays a much more significant role in one’s resilience to stress, anxiety, and depression, the local government has enhanced its programs and services.

“We in Quezon City recognize that the non-health related programs and services that we provide can have a significant impact on the mental well-being of our constituents. This is also the reason why each year, our administration continues to diversify our portfolio of social services,” the mayor explained.

For the fiscal year 2023, the city increased the budget for social services to more than P17 billion, or 51 percent of the total budget.

“We have made strides but much has yet to be done. Stigma is enemy number one. This is a barrier to health-seeking behavior even when access is present. Just like in all aspects of the human experience where discrimination exists, ignorance is the great obstacle to every human right,” Mayor Belmonte added. (ai/mtvn)

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