Press Release
December 18, 2023

Bong Go advocates for enhanced mental health support at the 95th Founding Anniversary of the National Center for Mental Health in Mandaluyong City

Senator Christopher "Bong" Go, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, reiterated his focus on advancing mental health initiatives in the country during the 95th Founding Anniversary of the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) in Mandaluyong City on Monday, December 18.

During the event, Go was also joined by Senators Sherwin "Win" Gatchalian and Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa, as well as Mandaluyong City Mayor Benjamin Abalos, Sr.

Addressing a diverse audience of healthcare professionals, policymakers, and mental health advocates, Go emphasized the critical need for enhanced mental health services, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on the mental well-being of Filipinos.

Go highlighted the staggering effects of the pandemic on mental health. He noted the increase in cases of anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions, aggravated by the pandemic's social and economic fallout.

"Sa ating pagdiriwang, mahalaga rin na ating kilalanin ang malalim na kahalagahan ng mental health sa ating lipunan. In today's world, we must pay attention not only to physical health but also to mental well-being. The NCMH serves as a guide and sanctuary for those in need of support and understanding in this matter," said Go.

During his visit to NCMH, Go also checked on the operations of the Malasakit Center inside the hospital. As principal author and sponsor of the Malasakit Centers Act, Go stressed that patients and their families can conveniently avail of medical assistance here or in any of the 159 Malasakit Centers operational nationwide.

"Habang nasa NCMH ay binisita rin natin ang Malasakit Center doon at nakipag-usap sa mga kababayan nating nakapila para makakuha ng medical assistance. Sinabi ko sa kanila na huwag silang mahihiyang lumapit dahil para sa kanila talaga ang Malasakit Center, lalo na ang mga mahihirap, hopeless, helpless at walang malalapitan maliban sa pamahalaan," he shared.

Meanwhile, Go's Malasakit Team also conducted a feeding program that day for outpatients and frontliners.

Go then outlined several legislative measures he has championed to address mental health concerns. These measures aim not only to provide necessary support for those suffering from mental health issues but also to destigmatize mental health care in the Philippines.

Go emphasized the need to reinforce the implementation of Republic Act No. 11036, also known as the Philippine Mental Health Act. This Act, signed into law during the term of former president Rodrigo Duterte, highlights the right of all Filipinos to access mental health care.

It aims to deliver mental health services at the barangay level, incorporate mental health and wellness programs at the community level, enhance mental health facilities, and foster mental health education in both educational institutions and workplaces.

Meanwhile, the Department of Education previously reported that in 2021, 404 students from public schools committed suicide while 2,147 attempted to take their own lives.

It is for this reason that the senator has been pushing for the passage of his proposed Senate Bill No. (SBN) 1786, aimed at mandating public higher education institutions (HEIs) to establish Mental Health Offices on the campuses. He accentuated the urgency of addressing mental health issues among young learners.

If enacted into law, SBN 1786 proposes the establishment of Mental Health Offices to set up campus hotlines with dedicated and trained guidance counselors to assist the whole HEI community, especially the students. The bill also states that special attention shall be given to those identified as having mental health problems or conditions, especially those at risk of committing suicide.

In addition, Go has co-authored and co-sponsored SBN 2200, or the proposed Basic Education Mental Health and Well-Being Promotion Act, which was principally sponsored by Gatchalian. This measure aims to provide comprehensive mental health support for the youth in the country's basic education system, requiring both private and public schools to integrate mental health education and support services into their curriculum.

Lastly, Go emphasized the significance of the recently enacted RA 11959. As the principal sponsor and one of its authors, the Regional Specialty Centers Act mandates the establishment of Regional Specialty Centers, including mental care, within existing Department of Health (DOH) regional hospitals to bring specialized medical care including mental health closer to communities.

"Ang pag-usbong ng pag-asa, gaya ng tema natin ngayon, ay hindi lamang tungkol sa pag galing natin mula sa anumang karamdaman. Ito rin ay tungkol sa pagbubukas ng ating mga puso at isipan sa realidad ng mental health issues. Kinakailangan nating maging mas mapag-unawa, mas maalalahanin, at higit sa lahat, handang tumulong sa mga nangangailangan," Go highlighted.

"Habang tayo'y nagdiriwang, nawa'y maging inspirasyon din ito upang lalo pang palakasin ang ating adhikain sa pagpapabuti ng kalagayan ng mental health sa Pilipinas. Sa pamamagitan ng ating pagtutulungan, maaari nating maabot ang isang lipunan na bukas at suportado ang bawat isa, lalo na sa mga oras ng pangangailangan," he added.

Go has been a consistent champion of mental health initiatives. During every budget deliberation in the Senate, he underscored the importance of securing adequate funding and executing mental health programs effectively.

Go earlier conveyed his support for the DOH's 2024-2028 Philippine Council for Mental Health (PCMH) Strategic Framework, an all-encompassing strategy designed to tackle mental health concerns in the Philippines. Backed by the World Health Organization's (WHO) Special Initiative for Mental Health, the framework gives importance to improving patient guidance and referral systems, creating an internal oversight board dedicated to mental health concerns, and educating media organizations on responsible reporting regarding mental health.

Meanwhile, as part of his appeal to scale up mental health programs in the country, Go cited that his proposed special provision under the PhilHealth 2023 budget was adopted, which indicated the use of the PhP21 billion budget pertaining to benefit package improvement under Universal Health Care Act.

He stressed the need for continued increase, improvement and expansion of mental health programs, asserting, "We should continue to improve our mental health programs and ensure that all forms of psychosocial assistance will be made available to Filipinos who are suffering from all forms of mental health issues, especially at this time of crisis."

On the same day, Go also attended the Vice Mayors League of the Philippines convention at the Diamond Hotel.

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