PAGSULONG: Empowering Volunteers in the Mental Health Sector

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May 30, 2022

Writer: Rafael Reyes
Editor: K Ballesteros
Peer Reviewer/s: Alvin Joseph Mapoy
Researcher: Rafael Reyes
Creatives: Klein Xavier Boiser, Alyssa Jane Fincale, Krystle Mae Labio, Sarah Mondoy, Jacklyn Moral
Moderatos: Christinne Joy Salvacruz, March John Paul Agbuya

 

 

The Philippine Mental Health Act (RA 11036) was passed into legislation in 2017 and then signed into law in 2018 [1]. Why bring this up on the 13th celebration of National Volunteerism Month [2]? The Mental Health Act was possible through the efforts of countless volunteers who pushed for institutionalizing mental health in our nation. Thanks to this giant leap, the movement was brought to the attention of the Filipino people, especially the youth.

Looking back a decade ago, it’s truly a surprise that mental health in the Philippines has reached these levels of awareness when psychological practice and guidance counseling were only regulated in the previous decades [3, 4]. Now, multiple youth organizations exist in the country, promoting mental health primarily through advocacy and information dissemination.

How can we go even further and achieve another win as big as the Philippine Mental Health Law? Let’s look at some of the successful movements of the past and see what we can pick up from some of the most passionate advocates in history.

Moving Forward

#MentalHealthPH is guided by the 3S Framework (Self, Society, and System) for driving mental health advocacy [7]. The same framework, therefore, can give clues to the next steps that past achievements like the Mental Health Law had laid out.

Spreading the word, and welcoming those who wish to join the cause with open arms empower volunteers in the mental health sector. Volunteerism improves individual well-being by fostering social connections, lengthening one’s lifespan, and reducing blood pressure [8]. The feeling of belongingness to a community advocating for a movement nurtures one’s well-being, knowing that their work is slowly but surely contributing to a healthier society [9].

Volunteerism is a form of agency. It is a way for a movement to have the necessary resources to fulfill its ultimate goals.   Volunteerism relies on the collective effort of people from all walks of life who want to see significant changes in society. Proclamation No. 1778, the document that declares the month of May as Volunteerism Month, emphasizes the need for government, religious, civic groups, and non-­governmental organizations to work together to ensure change happens and permeates through all of society. Therefore, there is a need for further collaboration to empower volunteers.

In 2019, the Philippine Council for Mental Health released the Mental Health Strategic Plan for 2019-2023 [10]. This document laid concrete targets to address mental health issues during the first five years of the Mental Health Law. Included in the strategic plan are mental health workers, who are defined by the document as “a trained person, volunteer or advocate engaged in mental health promotion, providing support services under the supervision of a mental health professional” [10], The inclusion of volunteers in the Mental Health Strategic Plan emphasizes the importance of volunteers in today’s movement. They bridge the gap between the public and mental health professionals who have to undergo years of education and training. The Philippines is already experiencing an unfortunate shortage of doctors (1 doctor for every 80,000 Filipinos) and even more so of mental health workers (2 to 3 professionals for every 100,000 Filipinos) [11]. 

Finally, there needs to be a systemic change to firmly integrate mental health into various sectors of Philippine society. There are already steps for this, including: the regulation of practice for psychologists [3], guidance counselors [4], and the implementation of the Mental Health Law in 2018 [1]. However, we should not stop there, as the law needs to be enforced in both private and public sectors, in education, in businesses, and more. The way to do this is to let more people from different walks of life to be an advocate for mental health.

Finland, the happiest country in the world according to a 2021 survey [12], is actively working towards better mental health by training professionals who are not necessarily related to mental health, including teachers, police officers, and pastors to name a few [13]. Mental health is essential for human beings, and everyone should have a hand in understanding and promoting mental health while eliminating the stigma revolving around mental health disorders and suicide.

It is our civic duty to bring attention to urgent issues, including mental health. 

Volunteerism is a  powerful tool for change.  Our past sessions this May 2022 were just a few ways to support mental health programs.  Empowered volunteers for mental health are the key to robust mental health policies, and to providing support, raising awareness, and fulfilling the mandate of the Philippine Mental Health Act. 

While Volunteerism Month for 2022 is ending in a couple of days, the journey towards mental health never stops. We hope that in the coming months and years, we can continue to work together towards a mentally healthy community!

Pre-Session Q:

Who is a “volunteer”? What do you currently advocate for?

  Guide Questions:

  1. What does it mean to be a “volunteer for mental health”?
  2. What are the limitations of a mental health advocate?
  3. How can we empower mental health volunteers to make the impact they want to happen?

Post-Session Q: How can you advocate for mental health in your immediate surroundings (friends, family, school/workplace?)

 

References

[1] Republic Act No. 11036 | GOVPH. (2018). Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines. Retrieved from https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/2018/06/20/republic-act-no-11036/

[2] Proclamation No. 1778, s. 2009 | GOVPH. (2009). Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines. https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/2009/05/18/proclamation-no-1778-s-2009/

[3] R. A. No. 10029. (2010). Retrieved from https://www.lawphil.net/statutes/repacts/ra2010/ra_10029_2010.html

[4] Republic Act No. 9258 | GOVPH. (2004). Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines. Retrieved from https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/2004/03/02/republic-act-no-9258/

[5] History.com Editors. (2022). Martin Luther King Jr. HISTORY. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/martin-luther-king-jr

[6] Mahatma Gandhi | Biography, Education, Religion, Accomplishments, Death, & Facts | Britannica. (n.d.). Retrieved May 25, 2022, from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Mahatma-Gandhi

[7] About Us. (n.d.). MentalHealthPH. Retrieved from https://mentalhealthph.org/about/

[8] Watson, S. (2013, June 26). Volunteering may be good for body and mind. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/volunteering-may-be-good-for-body-and-mind-201306266428

[9] The power of volunteerism. (2016). United Nations Volunteers. Retrieved from https://www.unv.org/power-volunteerism

[10] Mental Health Strategic Plan 2019-2023. (2019). Department of Health. Retrieved from https://doh.gov.ph/sites/default/files/publications/Mental%20Health%20Strategic%20Plan.pdf

[11] Lally, J., Tully, J., & Samaniego, R. (2019). Mental health services in the Philippines. BJPsych International, 16(03), 62–64. https://doi.org/10.1192/bji.2018.34

[12] Gross, J., & Lemola, J. (2021, April 20). What makes a happy country? The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/20/world/europe/world-happiness-report-ranking.html

[13] Programme for suicide prevention—THL. (n.d.). Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), Finland. Retrieved from https://thl.fi/en/web/thlfi-en/research-and-development/research-and-projects/programme-for-suicide-prevention

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