A leading Philippine psychologist has claimed that one in three of her compatriots suffers mental health problems.
Dr Lourdes Ignacio, professor emeritus at the University of the Philippines’s College of Medicine, also told the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) that action was needed to make mental health care available nationwide.
Prof. Ignacio made the remark yesterday (Thursday, October 12) after receiving the Geminiano T de Ocampo Visionary Award for Medical Research.
She said her estimate was based on a survey conducted by the UP-Philippine General Hospital in Western Visayas more than 20 years ago. This found that 36 per cent of people had mental health difficulties.
She added that later surveys, particularly those she led in Typhoon Yolanda-hit areas in 2013, yielded similar results.
However, she expressed concern that only about five per cent — or 4.45 million people — had recieved care.
In a lecture entitled “Reaching the unreached: Integrating mental health care in general health care” before the NAST yesterday, Prof. Ignacio said that returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and residents of typhoon-prone areas were most at risk.
Causes of mental health problems
Also vulnerable were people suffering domestic abuse and other “extreme life experiences”, such as natural disasters, violence, terrorism, conflict and crime.
Prof. Ignacio said there was a need to intensify the detection of mental health cases. Only then can they be treated and prevented from developing into full-blown psychiatric disorders.
“When you say psychiatric disorder, you already say he or she is non-functional. You cannot go to school, you cannot go to work,” Ignacio told The Philippine Star.
“Those with mental health problems are those who are still functional but limited.”
The professor recommended integrating mental health care into rural health units and barangay health centres in order to reach more people at need of treatment.
In a statement, the NAST said it conferred the award on Prof. Ignacio to recognise her work on mental health services in the Philippines as well as in Asian countries.