It’s good that Senator Raffy Tulfo wants to look into allegations of corruption at the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) and take action to fix the problem there. The mental health patients in said hospital deserve the specialized care and treatment they need, and it is disappointing to learn that they are not receiving proper care due to poor facilities.

Tulfo conducted a surprise ocular inspection at the NCMH on the last week of March and reported the tragic condition of the patients. He described that mental health patients there are being treated unjustly, or even worse than animals.

During his visit to Pavilion 8, also known as the Female Ward, which smelled of patients’ feces and urine, Tulfo was appalled by what he saw. He witnessed patients sleeping on the floor with no bedding, and the unit was not properly ventilated.

The senator also saw the Forensic Ward, often known as Pavilion 4. He stated that around 50 patients were confined in the small, uncomfortable pavilion with only two ceiling fans.

Tulfo advised beginning with a decent routine, which includes utilizing a humidifier, spraying the room with disinfectant around the clock, and cleaning it at least twice daily.

However, there are significant issues beneath the surface that need to be addressed. It is essential to hold accountable those responsible for corruption, lapses, negligence, or violations of laws, rules, and regulations governing mental health care services.

The disclosure of an abandoned pavilion at NCMH with a budget of P60 million is a cause for serious concern. According to him, the previous head of NCMH was killed after revealing these corruptions and other irregularities in the hospital, yet the culprits remain unpunished. This raises questions about the transparency and accountability of those responsible for managing the hospital and how they are handling taxpayer funds.

Since then, he has introduced Senate Resolution (SR) No. 562, which requests that the Senate Committee on Health investigate the NCMH’s infrastructure and administration in light of allegations of corruption. His aim is to evaluate the quality of care, therapy, and support given to patients at NCMH and find the sources of any issues or gaps there may be.

Also in March, Palawan News reported on the distressing situation of Zara and Fatima, who were unable to receive proper care for their mental health issues. Consequently, their parents had no choice but to restrain them at home in Bataraza to prevent them from damaging their neighbors’ properties.

The siblings’ brother reached out to us and shared their family’s struggle, revealing that they wanted to bring Zara and Fatima to a hospital for treatment but did not have the financial means to do so. Although they were advised to bring them to a facility in Narra, doubts remained as to whether it could effectively support patients with mental health concerns.

He said Zara experienced postpartum complications, also known as “binat”, following childbirth, whereas Fatima underwent depression after her husband left her.

The awful circumstances of the NCMH patients, as well as the narrative of Zara and Fatima, are just two of many examples that shed light on the realities of mental health in the country.

What are our national and local governments doing?

According to the Department of Health (DOH), 1 in 5 Filipinos has a mental health issue, with depression being the most common. Suicide is also a significant concern, with an average of 7 Filipinos taking their own lives every day.

The government has recognized the need to address mental health issues in the country and has implemented policies and programs to support mental health. Pero nasaan?

In 2018, the Mental Health Law was enacted, which aims to provide affordable and accessible mental health services to all Filipinos, with a focus on community-based services. The law also mandates the integration of mental health education in schools and workplaces to reduce stigma. Hanggang enact, enact lang tayo.

In addition to the Mental Health Law, the DOH has launched the Philippine Mental Health Program, which aims to provide comprehensive mental health services to all Filipinos by 2025. The program includes the establishment of mental health facilities in all provinces, training of mental health professionals, and the implementation of mental health education and awareness campaigns.

Despite these, the implementation of mental health policies and programs still faces significant challenges. There is still a lack of mental health professionals and resources, particularly in rural areas. Wag na tayong lumayo, Meron ba sa Palawan? The stigma surrounding mental health also remains a significant barrier to seeking help.

The government’s inability to provide accessible resources and facilities to address the growing number of Filipinos experiencing mental health issues is a deplorable reality that demands immediate action. It is unacceptable that mental health concerns continue to impact individuals, families, and communities with little to no support from those in power.

Mental health is a crucial aspect of overall wellness, as it affects our ability to function and impacts our relationships with others. Yet, the government has chosen to ignore the problem, allowing the associated stigma to linger and making it difficult for people to seek assistance.

The limited resources available make it even more challenging. It’s frustrating to see that despite the high demand, we only have a few hundred psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses available in the country. It’s unacceptable that mental health facilities—if there’s any other than the NCMH—are outdated, underfunded, and lack the necessary resources to provide proper care.

The government must prioritize mental health resources and services to ensure that all Filipinos have access to the support they need. It’s not enough to simply allocate insufficient resources towards programs and services. The government must take a more proactive approach by investing in mental health infrastructure and addressing the root causes of mental health struggles, such as poverty, discrimination, and social inequality.

Furthermore, the government must work to eradicate the stigma surrounding mental health by implementing education programs and campaigns that promote awareness and understanding. This will help to create a more inclusive and supportive environment for those dealing with mental health issues.

It’s not only the government that should take responsibility. As individuals, we can also do our part by advocating for change and spreading awareness about mental health. It’s time to break the silence and speak out against the stigma and discrimination that surround mental health.

We can start by sharing our own experiences, listening to those around us, and supporting mental health organizations and programs. Together, we can make a difference and help create a better future for those struggling with mental health issues.

It is high time that mental health care is given priority and the necessary attention it deserves. The state of the facilities at NCMH is a wake-up call to improve mental health care services in the country. Tulfo’s resolution can pave the way for meaningful changes and a better future for mental health patients.

Sana nga.