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Why Filipinos Should Be Worried About Their Mental Health

Calling all Filipinos: Raise your hands if you know someone who has experienced (or is currently experiencing) some form of mental health issue. And I don’t just mean depression, which is now the leading cause of disability worldwide. It can be any type of mental health issue out there – depression, anxiety, OCD, personality disorders, ADHD, phobias, drug use, alcoholism, behavioral issues… you name it! So, can you think of someone yet?

I hate to break it to you, but even if you don’t know someone right now, the chances that you or someone you love will experience a mental health disorder are high. Research shows that 1 of every 4 people will be affected by a mental disorder at some point in their lives.

This matters because untreated mental health issues can potentially destroy every aspect of your life – your mind, your body, your family, your career, and your relationships.

Fortunately, many mental health issues can be treated if you get the help you need. That’s the good news. But here’s the bad news: If you live in the Philippines and need psychological help, you just might not get it. And this should worry you - a lot.

Here are 4 reasons why you, as a Filipino, should be worried about your mental health:

1) There are not enough psychiatrists and psychologists out there to help you.

As of today, there are about 100 million people in the Philippines. But get this – there are only around 500 licensed psychiatrics in the country. So that’s 5 psychiatrists for every 1 million Filipinos.

And the number of psychologists isn’t that great either. This year, only 120 people took the psychology licensure exam - and only 63 people passed. Plus, not all of these licensed psychologists are necessarily going into the field of mental health to be counselors or clinical psychologists.

These statistics show that our country is having a major supply issue when it comes to mental health care. I know of many people who have been waiting for months to get an appointment.

This should worry you because if you do need help, it might be difficult for you to get it.

2) It can get really expensive for you.

A typical therapy session in Manila is 1 hour long and costs around P1,500-P3,000. Depending on the severity of your problem, some psychologists may recommend therapy 1-2 times a week. If we average that to 1.5 sessions a week, then that’s 6 sessions a month. So you’re looking at extra P18,000 of expenses per month for basic mental health care.

But that doesn't even include the cost medication. Let’s say you’re prescribed an anti-depressant for depression. Fluoxetine, a typical anti-depressant, costs around P38 per 20mg tablet. A typical dose for depression can range from 20-80mg per day. Let's say you take 60mg/day, which is 3 tablets per day. At P114 per day (for those 3 tablets),  you’ll looking at an extra expense of P3,420 per month. But then that’s assuming you’re only on one type of medication. Unfortunately, depending on your issue, you may be prescribed several types of drugs. So, see how quickly your costs can escalate?

This should worry you because, depending on your income, this can get really unaffordable for you.

3) Our government can’t help you.

Although a Mental Health Act is being pushed, there is still no national law concerning mental health in the country. This means that mental health services are not well incorporated into the Philippines’ national healthcare system. So if you need help, there is not much support that you can get from the government, such as through insurance coverage, subsidies, more accessible treatments, and so forth.

This should worry you because the costs and challenges associated with mental health issues can run high – so a comprehensive mental health care system in the country can help you a lot.

4) Our supply of future Filipino psychologists may be at risk.

Because of the social stigma around mental health, many aspiring clinicians seem to believe that they will not have enough clients to sustain their businesses. I can’t tell you how many students have approached me saying they want to become psychologists but they are worried about making a living. Most of them seem to believe that not enough people will seek their professional help.

But make no mistake: The demand is there. People want and will pay for psychological help. Many psychologists have thriving businesses - it's all about using the right strategies to build your client base. Unfortunately, since not many people know this, many would-be psychologists are forgoing psychology to take up another career altogether, which can put our supply of future psychologists at risk.

This should worry you because we need more psychologists in our country – especially if you want you and your loved ones to have access to help when you need it the most.

That said - what can we do to help? I’ve got some ideas - but that’s for another post altogether. For now, just let these facts sink in. The state of mental health in the Philippines is a sad one, and it’s about time for people to start talking about it.