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MANILA — An official of the Department of Health (DOH) urged the public to break the stigma attached to mental health illnesses and refrain from discriminating persons suffering from it.

DOH-Calabarzon regional director Eduardo Janairo said there should be a change to one’s perspective on mental health problems which he described as a common occurrence that must be resolved and not neglected.

“This is the call of the people, and I’m appealing to everyone not to put a stigma on this issue because what we need is to help each other to resolve the mental health problem,” Janairo said in an interview on the sidelines of the 2nd Regional Mental Health Summit in Quezon City on Thursday.

“If you feel you have a mental problem, you tend to shy away with other people which can cause you a bad image for not being trustworthy. So the tendency, you think it’s better to hide the mental condition,” he added.

With the Mental Health law in effect, Janairo assured that mentally-ill persons would be provided better access to health services. He said the DOH-Calabarzon is now creating a better referral system related to mental health issues.

“The continuity of care will be provided to the patients whether they’re inside the mental institution or even outside the community,” Janairo said.

Janairo said mental health patients are often deprived of medicines due to lack of stocks, while some of them are ignored. Through the creation of a Regional Mental Health Council, Janairo said the delivery of mental health services in Calabarzon would improve.

According to the World Health Organization, one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives.

Around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

In the Philippines, a 2000 Census of Population and Housing showed that mental illness and mental retardation rank third and fourth, respectively among the types of disabilities.

Republic Act 11036 or the Philippine Mental Health Law was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on June 20, 2018, and took effect almost two weeks after.

The law helps protect the rights and welfare of people with mental health conditions, shift the focus of care to the community, and improve access to services.

Since mental health is now integrated into basic health services, the law also provides PhilHealth coverage for confinement, checkups and medicines, and special rooms for mental health patients.