Statement of the Commission on Human Rights supporting Senate Bill 2598 or the establishment of Mental Health Offices in SUCs

Statement of the Commission on Human Rights supporting Senate Bill 2598 or the establishment of Mental Health Offices in SUCs

The Commission on Human Rights strongly advocates for the passage of Senate Bill 2598, also known as the “State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) Mental Health Services Act,” which proposes the establishment of Mental Health Offices in state universities and colleges throughout the Philippines.

This bill, submitted by the Committees on Higher, Technical and Vocational Education; Health and Demography; and Finance, along with Senators Jose Pimentel “Jinggoy” Ejercito Jr., Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., Christopher Lawrence “Bong” T. Go, Manuel “Lito” M. Lapid, Francis Joseph “Chiz” G. Escudero, and Juan Edgardo “Sonny” M. Angara, requires SUCs to provide comprehensive mental health services. These services are intended to address the emotional, behavioral, and psychosocial issues of students, faculty, and staff, thus fostering an environment conducive to educational and intellectual growth.

The bill also seeks to hire and train mental health professionals to ensure that interventions and treatments are provided by qualified individuals. It proposes the establishment of a 24/7 campus hotline, the initiation of mental health awareness campaigns, and the development of a rapid-response system for suicide and other critical situations. Furthermore, it aims to integrate mental health services more deeply into the educational framework.

The Commission emphasizes the significance of Senate Bill 2598 as it reinforces the implementation of Republic Act No. 11036, or the Mental Health Act, and Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) of the United Nations, which asserts that every individual has the basic right to attain the highest standard of mental health.

“CHR recognizes that mental health is a fundamental human right. Therefore, we will continue to advocate for initiatives that reduce the stigma associated with seeking mental help,” CHR Chairperson Richard P. Palpal-latoc said.

According to a report from the Philippine Mental Health Association Inc. (PMHA) and the World Health Organization (WHO), the rising cases of mental health concerns in the Philippines are becoming a “silent epidemic,”[1] affecting nearly 73% of Filipino Gen Zs (13-26 years old) [2]. The prevalence of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues within this age group underscores the critical need for accessible and effective mental health services in educational institutions.

In response to this alarming trend, the Commission calls on both the Senate and the House of Representatives to collaborate and expedite the passage of this crucial legislation.

“The establishment of Mental Health Offices in SUCs is a vital step towards ensuring the mental well-being of students, faculty, and staff, thereby contributing to a healthier and more productive educational environment. The CHR believes that with swift legislative action, the nation can better support its youth and foster a culture of mental health awareness and support,” Chair Palpal-latoc exhorted.###

[1] ‘Mental health crisis a rising epidemic in PH’ – experts. (2023, October 9). Philippine News Agency. Retrieved June 4, 2024, from https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1211404

[2] Dy-Zulueta, D. (2024, January 12). A silent epidemic emerging: The rising mental health concern. Philstar Global. Retrieved June 4, 2024, from https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/health-and-family/2024/01/12/2308964/silent-epidemic-emerging-rising-mental-health-concern