December 10, 2022
Writer: Jeff Reverente
Editor: Lawrence dela Fuente
Every year, the World Health Organization (WHO) celebrates World Universal Health Coverage Day on December 12th, a celebration in hope of widespread adoption of universal health coverage (UHC) among the countries of the international world. Universal health coverage means that everyone, everywhere would be able to access the health services they need – including mental health services – without going through financial hardship.
“The world is accepting the concept of universal health coverage. Mental health must be an integral part of UHC. Nobody should be denied access to mental health care because she or he is poor or lives in a remote place.” – Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO (2019)
This year, a spotlight is shone on the inextricable links between universal health coverage and mental health services. MentalHealthPH, in partnership with United for Global Mental Health (UGMH), strongly believes in this year’s theme, “Building the Future We Want: A Healthy Future for All” and emphasizes now more than ever that mental health is an essential component of an individual’s overall health. When it comes to mental health, no one should be left behind.
Today, however, there is a huge coverage gap of mental health services in the Philippines. For psychiatrists alone, there is only one psychiatrist in every 100,000 Filipinos, significantly far from WHO’s recommendation of one psychiatrist to every 10,000 patients. The COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted the need for better access to these services, considering that as the pandemic continues in 2022, the National Center for Mental Health’s hotline received about 14,000 calls, a significantly higher number compared to the pre-pandemic period in which there were only about 4,000 calls from May 2019 to February 2020. The DOH estimates that beyond the calls for help, roughly 3.6 million Filipinos suffer from mental health issues amidst the continuing pandemic, primarily depression and alcohol abuse. What is more concerning is, according to former DOH Disease Prevention and Control Bureau chief Frances Prescilla Cuevas, “This [figure] is an understatement. This is just a figure [that is] underreported because it only tackles a few of the conditions.”
“The Covid-19 pandemic is reminding us once again that mental health is just as important as physical health.” – Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, (Director-General WHO)
Furthermore, the allocated budget for mental health programs in 2023 is at PHP 1 billion, which comes out to roughly a mere ten pesos for every Filipino, despite increased incidence of mental health issues.
Integrating high-quality, rights-based, evidence-based mental health services into UHC – with a focus on primary and community-based care – proves to improve the overall quality of life, especially of those with mental health issues. By investing in the integration of mental health services into UHC and achieving universal coverage (90% plus) for five common mental health and neurological conditions (anxiety, depression, psychosis, bipolar disorder, and epilepsy) globally by 2050, over 1.4 billion prevalent cases could be prevented, over 500 million healthy life years could be gained, and around 6 million deaths could be averted.
We at UGMH and #MentalHealthPH firmly believe that having access to affordable, quality, and rights-based healthcare, including mental health care, is a right, not a privilege. Mental health should be part of Universal Health Care and be prioritized long-term to protect the overall health of every Filipino and our national economy.
Join us in supporting this movement and download the provided #MentalHealthForAll Advocacy Toolkit here.
There is no health without mental health. Help us reach every community, every single Filipino, far and near, and achieve a healthy future for all.
Together, towards a mentally healthy Philippines! #MentalHealthForAll
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