Past Issues

Mental Health Legislation in the Philippines: Its Beginnings, Highlights, and Updates

Rene M. Samaniego

Background: The Philippines is an autonomous Southeast Asian country which has long been encumbered with the burden of mental healthrelated concerns. Aside from the commonly occurring psychiatric illnesses, it also has to contend with the dearth of epidemiological data on such disorders as well as the scarcity of mental health practitioners. On top of these, one enduring challenge is the absence of mental health legislation. Thus, the passage of Republic Act (R.A.) 11036 or the Philippine Mental Health Act has been considered one of the greater achievements in Philippine psychiatry in the recent years. Methods: In this review, the author examines the origins, highlights, and updates on the legislature of R.A. 11036. Results: This legislature (or the Philippine Mental Health Act) elaborates on its highlights which equitably covers the rights of patients and their families as well as that of the mental health professionals; the standards of psychiatric, psychosocial, and neurologic services that need to be upheld in both government and private hospitals; the promotion of mental health in educational institutions and in the workplace; the need for mental health providers to undergo capacity building and proper training in research and development; the duties and responsibilities of the government agencies involved; the creation of a council to serve as a policymaking, planning, coordinating, and advisory body to oversee the implementation of the law; and the penalty clauses involved with violations of the law. It also provides updates on the enactment of the law’s implementing rules and regulations, namely, the upgrading of existing mental health facilities, the standardization of a community-based mental health program, the development of a national suicide prevention strategy, the integration of mental health into the educational system and the workplace, the first-ever Philippine national survey on mental health and well-being, as well as the augmentation of the practice of telepsychiatry to extend the reach of services to the geographically isolated Filipinos. Conclusion: The Philippines made a history through the passage of the first-ever Mental Health Act on June 21, 2018, now known as R.A. 11036. The Philippine Psychiatric Association and other related organizations spearheaded a multisectoral lobby in the drafting of the bill. It took 16 years, and 31 drafts before R.A. 11036 became a reality. We still need to monitor the implementation of the law closely. Future revisions are expected to better improve the mental health law for citizens to receive better rights of mental health treatment and human rights protection.
Key Word implementing rules and regulations, mental health burden, rights for mental health care, the Philippine Psychiatric Association
Editorial Committe, Taiwanese Journal of Psychiatry
9F-3, 22, Song-Jiang Rd., Taipei 104, Taiwan
Email/ │ TEL/886-2-2567-8295 │ FAX/886-2-2567-8218