There is a need to establish a Mental Health Office (MHO) in state universities and colleges (SUCs) to enable students to lead fulfilling and normal lives as they venture into adulthood.

Acting on reports that depression, anxiety and behavioral disorders are among the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents, Senator Jinggoy Estrada has filed Senate Bill No 1508, or the SUCs Mental Health Service Act.

A study of the World Health Organization (WHO) released in 2021 showed that globally, one in seven 10 to 19-year-olds experiences a mental disorder, accounting for 13 percent of the burden of disease in the age group.

The same study said suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among the 15 to 29 age bracket.

The House of Representatives approved a similar measure on Dec. 12, 2022.

Under House Bill No. 6416, the Commission on Higher Education shall require all SUCs to establish an MHO, subject to the rules and regulations of the Civil Service Commission and the Department of Budget and Management, just like Estrada’s proposal.

Estrada said failure to solve the problem at the adolescent level will impair physical and mental health and limit opportunities as adults.

“The establishment of MHOs in all SUCs and strengthening our already existing campus MHOs will ensure easy access to mental health care for the well-being not only of our vulnerable youth population, but of the faculty, teaching and non-teaching staff and other personnel in SUCs,” read the bill’s explanatory note.

The measure allows hiring of additional faculty, teaching and non-teaching staff and other personnel in the campuses of SUC nationwide to ensure health services are provided to resolve emotional, behavioral and psychological issues.

Salaries and other allowances of the MHO personnel will be based on the government standardization law.

Estrada pointed out that special attention shall be given to those identified to have mental health problems or conditions, especially those at risk of committing suicide.

There will be an awareness campaigns on suicide prevention, stress handling, mental health and nutrition, and guidance and counselling, the bill states. (PNA)