Mental health care now made more accessible

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IN early 2020, the World Health Organization Philippines revealed that at least 3.6 million Filipinos suffer from one form of mental, neurological, and substance use disorder.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, this number would have surely gone up substantially following the issuance of varying classifications of community quarantines and lockdowns that restricted the mobility of many Filipinos.

Many were forced not to leave their homes, which was met with resistance by some but somewhat welcomed by others for fear of contracting the dreaded SARS-CoV-2 virus and the COVID-19 disease. However, the continued isolation, uncertainty, and general fear caused by the COVID-19 pandemic may have taken its toll in the minds of many Filipinos.

The Philippines is one of the countries in Southeast Asia worst hit by COVID-19. In fact, in the COVID-19 Resilience Ranking released by Bloomberg, which measured the success of 53 countries in containing the virus with the least socio-economic impact, the country fell into last place and was even dubbed “the worst place to be in a pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to thousands of businesses closing and millions of jobs lost. Multiple lockdowns and quarantine orders also pushed Filipinos to practice social distancing and isolate themselves as needed to prevent further transmission of the virus. This has been especially difficult since Filipinos are known to have tight-knit, extended family ties. All these and more have resulted to an increase in the number of Filipinos seeking mental health assistance, with higher reports of depression and suicidal thoughts.

While mental health is being given more attention now compared to previous years, accessible and affordable treatments as well as other forms of support for mental health patients are still greatly lacking. For one, there is unequal distribution of specialists with majority of the little over 500 psychiatrists in practice based mostly in urban areas. The ratio of mental health workers in the Philippines is also only at 2 to 3 per 100,000 Filipinos, a ratio that is lower compared to other countries with a more or less similar economic status such as Indonesia and Malaysia.

Championing mental health care for all

Johnson & Johnson (Philippines), Inc. has long championed mental health at a national and company level, working diligently to improve the outcomes for those suffering from mental illness. In partnership with the Philippine Psychiatric Association, the company provides medical education to healthcare practitioners and treatment access to patients. The company also runs community-based mental health programs together with other institutions to reach patients in even the most far-flung areas of the Philippines.

We need to keep a watchful eye on mental health, especially as we continue to navigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic which has already caused enough damage to the mental well-being of Filipinos,” said Dr. Erwin Benedicto, head of Medical Affairs at Johnson & Johnson (Philippines), Inc., in a statement sent to “We are glad to have the support of our partners as we work tirelessly to improve the state of mental health in the Philippines.”

In response to the heightened need for mental health education and support, we conduct mental health training through telementoring and telecoaching of municipal health practitioners. We also hold medical webinars related to the promotion of mental health and management of mental health conditions together with the Philippine Psychiatric Association and other professional organizations. Our collaborative efforts have yielded positive outcomes including enhanced patient access to medication, especially for cases of schizophrenia.”

Johnson & Johnson (Philippines), Inc. also prioritizes the mental health of its employees, providing multiple mental health resources and programs which can be extended to an employee’s dependents. Working hours have also been adjusted to suit the needs of parents with children attending online classes, and of other employees to help them find that right balance between work and life.

In celebration of Mental Health Day in October, initiatives that promote mental well-being will be held throughout the month across the global Johnson & Johnson network. These include #ImHere pledges of support for employees around the world through Yammer as well as interactive talks and virtual events featuring mental health professionals. For the Philippines specifically, the company has partnered with Save The Children to discuss the importance of children’s mental health during the pandemic. The event entitled “Puppets for Mental Health” will include making puppets for a children’s book as well as a Hope in a Jar activity for all participants.

Johnson & Johnson’s recipe for business success has always included caring for its employees, enabling them to bring their best self to work every day. The company believes that in these challenging times, their employees’ mental wellness is just as important as their physical health.

As what the World Health Organization has said before: “There is no health without mental health.”

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