Every second week of October, the Philippines is celebrating National Mental Health Week based on Proclamation No. 452, dated August 25, 1994, signed by then-President Fidel V. Ramos while the World Mental Health Day is observed on the 10th of October every year. In 2020, the theme of World Mental Health Day was “Mental Health for All. Greater Investment – Greater Access. Everyone, Everywhere.” As stated by Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization, “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.” In this time of COVID-19 pandemic, further difficulties on mental health investment and more challenges on services accessibility are expected. But as emphasized by Dr. Ingrid Daniels, the President of World Federation for Mental Health, “it is also a time in which we can capitalize on the resilience displayed by individuals and communities who relaunched, regenerated, and rediscovered themselves and their communities to be responsive during a time of crisis, as well as a time of great reflection and finding creative solutions and interventions to facilitate a mental health response in an emergency context despite social distancing or “lockdown.”
The National Center for Mental Health, being the premier agency on Mental Health in the Philippines which persistently provides quality mental health services, conducted a month-long activity to highlight the importance of mental health and the need for greater investment in it and promote available mental health services and strategies to become mentally healthy. Important key messages were provided by Dr. Noel V. Reyes, OIC-Medical Center Chief II; Dr. Beverly A. Azucena, Chief, Medical and Professional Staff II; and Dr. Rodney R. Boncajes, Head, Community-Based Mental Health Capacity Building and Training Unit.
One of the highlights of the celebration was the Virtual Talakayan entitled “Kumusta Ka Ngayong May Pandemya? Pag-usapan Natin, Tara?” last October 21, 2020. Dr. Boncajes and Dr. Sharlene Mae Palma-Ongoco from NCMH-Special Concerns were the resource speakers in the said event which was joined by 105 participants from different regions of the Philippines. Another highlight was the office blessing of the Public Health Unit and the celebration of its 15th Founding Anniversary last October 28, 2020.
The celebration was concluded by a Virtual Awarding Ceremony wherein Green Ribbon Award was presented to Mental Health Champions who are advocates in promoting mental health and in improving mental health services in the country. The following were the awardee who generously shared their experiences and words of advice on how to surpass the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health:
• Policy Maker: Former Representative Cristina “Chiqui” Roa – Puno, 1st District, Antipolo City
• Organization/Group: MentalHealthPH Youth for Mental Health Coalition, Inc. NCMH Physicians Association, Inc. NCMH Employees
• Local Government Unit: Provincial Health Office of Camiguin, Province of Camiguin
• Company: TAPE Inc. for EAT BULAGA’s Bawal Judgemental
• Individual: Mark “Macoy Dubs” Averilla Jaime Montilla
The members of the Mental Health Month Culminating Activity Ad Hoc Committee were the following:
Chairperson: Jose Marie Iporac (Public Health Unit)
Vice-chairperson: Dr. Rodney Boncajes (NCMH Special Concerns)
Members: Dionicio Tolentino (Chief Finance Officer) / Alfredo Torres (Activity Therapy Section) / Engr. Evelyn Purino (Engineering Section) / Rommel Rodriguez (IHOMP Unit) / Rey Teves (Administrative Service) / Maria Jordana Dela Cruz (Nursing Service)
Logistics: Christy Suyo Charo Ponteras
Technical: Lichelle Parreño Pauline Taruc
The advocacies on mental health do not only begin and will not end in this month-long advocacies. More is to be done in promoting mental health to the population and everyone in the society to achieve that goal of mental health for all.
“Mental health matters. Invest in your mental health.” – NCMH Mental Health Month 2020 Theme