Almost every day, we hear and read stories of people taking their own lives for reasons ranging from desperation to depression.

The latest was that of a man from Iloilo who hanged himself after his motorcycle was repossessed for failure to pay its monthly amortization.

Many will laugh at the victim’s reasons for committing suicide (yes they are victims) but it actually highlights the state of mental health in the Philippines.

It took nearly 30 long years for Congress to pass a law that gives premium to mental health. Republic Act 11036 or the Mental Health Act was signed into law in June 2018. Apart from providing medical assistance, the law also recognized the fundamental right of Filipinos to mental health services.

Let’s take a look at relevant numbers that necessitate the passage of the law.

The health department said that in 2004, over 4.5 million cases of depression were reported in the Philippines.

The World Health Organization also recorded 2,000 cases of suicide from 2000 to 2012, and most of the victims were in the prime of their lives – 15 to 29 years old.

WHO now predicts that by 2030, “mental disorders will account for 13% of the total global burden of diseases.” (Rappler, Sept 12, 2018)

The most immediate concern, therefore, are the teenagers and young adults who are the most robust and innovative segment of our human resources. In a world where information and insults get viral with a click of the mouse, they are most exposed to elements that trigger desperation and depression.

Aside from lack of accessible facilities and experts, what complicates the treatment of mental health concerns is the accompanying stigma. People who seek help from psychiatrists and psychologists for mere counseling are labeled as buang (crazy or nutcase). We can only imagine the embarrassment felt by people wallowing in severe depression at the mere thought of seeing an expert.

In order for the Mental Health Act to be more effective, a shift in attitude and treatment towards the issue is in order. A person who suffers from depression and the like deserves the same kind of compassion and care we express whenever someone gets a simple laceration. Mental health issues are more vicious than any other kind of ailment because the patient can always hide the signs and symptoms then suddenly explode. They are like walking time bombs.

And to the ignorant hecklers, don’t ever think that you are mentally normal just because you don’t consult shrinks. Mind you, people who profess to be normal and well are actually the sickest of us all.