"Mental Health in the Philippines"

Updated: Apr 4

Mental health is a controversial subject that frequently separates perception. Many people claim that mental health is not as important as any other issues, for instance, economic conflicts, political issues, etc., and state that mental health is just all in your head and you should learn how to control it on your own. In the Philippines, mental health is given less significance, regardless of the increasing rate of children and adolescents being affected by it.

Lally et al. (2019) stated that the mental health services in the Philippines have remained inconsistent, especially when conveying information to others. The currently implemented act on Mental health provides the opportunity for providing coherent and holistic mental health services and that being said, several problems arise in delivering efficient and cost-effective mental healthcare, only 3-5% of the total budget is spent on mental health problems and 70% are spent in the hospital care. They have mentioned that in 2005, 10 075 participants answered the World Health Survey in the Philippines and that 0.4% of the participants were diagnosed with schizophrenia and 14.5% were diagnosed with depression and only 32.3% of the diagnosed schizophrenia were being treated, and 14% with depression.

Lastly, since the Philippines lack mental health workers, professionals, and doctors and has weak community mental health services, they have suggested that public revenues are frantically recommended to fix the professional development and recruitment of psychiatrists, nurses, psychologists, social workers, and other interdisciplinary team members, particularly as a large number of skilled professionals insist on continuing to move abroad.

Another study by Maravilla & Tan (2019) stated that Filipino beliefs about mental health such as anxiety and depression are non-existent and something that one should be ashamed of having. The qualitative study of Tanaka et. al (2018) mentioned that this stigma of mental health is thought to be the result of cultural attitudes of mental disorders, which are divided into three categories: Familial Problems, which states that the family disowns its members with mental health disorder due to their belief that it can be genetically transferred. Unrealistic Pessimism and Optimism mean that the person with mental health disorders can either suffer from a chronic cognitive disability or are strong enough to overcome any mental distress on their own. Lastly, Oversimplified Chronic Course where people who do not have mental illnesses pertain a severe illness concept to someone who is unwell and anticipate a complete recovery in the brief period and because of these, the mental health in the Philippines are given less importance by the government and other public sectors, the Philippine government does not also provide economical support for organizations that aims to break the stigma in mental health and help the people with severe mental health disorder the treatment that they deserve.

Maravilla & Tan (2021) also states that mental health issues have become the third most common disorder/ disability in the Philippines, i.e. 6 million Filipinos are suffering from depression and anxiety, making the Philippines the third-highest rate of mental health in the Western Pacific. It was also stated in the study of Hakulinen et al. (2020) that people with a serious mental disorder had substantially lower levels of productivity before, and especially after, their disorder's diagnosis. Filipinos are usually displeased, not only for economic strife (i.e. unemployment, low income, etc.) but more because of pressure and expectations from family and society. Lastly, they have mentioned that the Philippine Mental Health Act is really nothing more than a "deceptive ordinance". Nonetheless, they believed that there is still hope that the mental health issues in the Philippines will be recognized as a significant and essential need to improve the quality of life and the economic system.

Due to the lack of support and the stigma in mental health, Filipinos who are affected by a severe mental health illness prefer not to seek help from a professional and would rather ask help from close friends or family. In the study of Martinez et al. (2020) Filipinos became reluctant in seeking mental health treatment, primarily because of the expense that underlies the treatment and assumes that there are other significant matters that they need to focus on. Another reason for not seeking treatment is because of the social stigma that comes from every mental health disorder and also because of fear of losing face, a perception of disgrace, and compliance to Asian values of complying with social rules in which mental illness is viewed as unacceptable. They also stated that Filipinos only seek professional help when the illness is too severe for a family or close friend to handle and have suggested that Filipinos should also give significance to their well-being and should know that seeking mental health treatment can have a better impact and quality of life. Seeking mental health treatment does not imply weakness but rather a courage, because of how someone is strong enough to acknowledge that they are not okay and that they need help to become better.


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Hakulinen, C., Elovainio, M., Arffman, M., Lumme, S., Pirkola, S., Keskimaki, I., et al. (2019). Mental disorders and long-term labor market outcomes: a nationwide cohort study of 2 055 720 individuals. Acta Psychiatr. Scand. 140, 371–381. doi: 10.1111/acps.13067

Lally, J., Tully, J., & Samaniego, R. (2019). Mental health services in the Philippines. BJPsych International, 16(03), 62–64. https://doi.org/10.1192/bji.2018.34

Maravilla, N. M. A. T., & Tan, M. J. T. (2021). Philippine mental health act: Just an act? A call to look into the bi-directionality of mental health and economy. Frontiers in Psychology, 12. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.706483

Martinez, A. B., Co, M., Lau, J., & Brown, J. S. L. (2020). Filipino help-seeking for mental health problems and associated barriers and facilitators: a systematic review. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 55(11), 1397–1413. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-020-01937-2

Tanaka, C., Tuliao, M., Tanaka, E., Yamashita, T., and Matsuo, H. (2018). A qualitative study on the stigma experienced by people with mental health problems and epilepsy in the Philippines. BMC Psychiatry 18:325. doi: 10.1186/s12888-018-1902-9

Zartaloudi, A., & Madianos, M. (2021). Stigma is related to asking for help from a mental health professional. JHeS (Journal of Health Studies), 5(1). https://doi.org/10.31101/jhes.2105

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