House approves Mental Health Act on final reading

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 20) — A national mental health bill will now become a law after a unanimous vote from the House of Representatives Monday.

After a five-week break, Congress passed on a 223-0-0 vote the Comprehensive Mental Health Bill, or House Bill 6452.

The Senate approved a similar bill in May. Senate Bill No. 1345, or the Philippine Mental Health bill, seeks to integrate mental health promotion in both educational institutions and the workplace to address the stigma and discrimination usually associated with mental health.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, who sponsored the Senate bill, congratulated the lower house for the bill's passage.

"After being one of the few countries left without a mental health policy, the country is now one step closer in implementing a policy that will respond to the mental health needs of Filipinos. Once enacted into law, the measure will integrate mental health into the general health care system," Hontiveros said in a statement Monday.

Both House and Senate versions of the bill shall be reconciled in a bicameral conference to address any differences. Once both houses approve the consolidated version, it will be sent to the President for its enactment.

Hontiveros said she will help the Lower House in consolidating the bill.

"As sponsor of the counterpart bill in the Senate, I am looking forward to working with my colleagues in Congress in finalizing the bill and having it signed into law before the year ends as a wonderful Christmas gift to the Filipino people," she added.

The Comprehensive Mental Health Act aims to give Filipinos access to a mental care system integrated in the general health delivery system, in coordination with the programs of the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

A 2011 study from World Health Organization showed that 17 percent of students in the Philippines between 13 and 15 years old have ''seriously considered attempting suicide during the past 12 months.' Thirteen percent have ''actually attempted suicide one or more times during the past 12 months," it added.