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3 of 10 government workers need psychiatric help, survey says

Tacloban City (January 13) -- There is a need to look into the 2007 survey findings which show that as many as three out ten government employees have mental health problems.

While the first reaction is to smile and mentally picture who among our friends and neighbors are among the three, perhaps the mature way of coping is to use the findings to look for solutions.

Now that the statistics is known, the next concern is the additional burden that the government worker will entail in looking for psychiatric help.

Definitely, it is about time to lobby Congress to pass a Mental Health Bill to strengthen and institutionalize services for mental healthcare, which is what the Philippine Psychiatric Association is working for.

The most common mental disorder found were depression and anxiety disorder, which require professional intervention, said Dr. Eduardo Tolentino Jr. of the Philippine Psychiatric Association (PPA).

What is more surprising is the finding that one or two were even possibly suicidal, Dr. Tolentino who practices at the Makati Medical Center said.

The survey, an initiative of the Department of Health, covered the employees of major government departments based in the National Capital Region.

It used the diagnostic tool Composite International Diagnostic Interview, which is recommended by the World Health Organization and the American Psychiatric Association, to get a picture of the mental health of Filipino government workers, Dr.Tolentino said.

"We think that people are just normal, but they are actually harboring mental health problems that can be picked up by a diagnostic tool," he said.

Dr. Tolentino said that depression is not the same as sadness caused by the loss of or separation from a loved one.

"Depression is an illness triggered even without any loss or separation, [but by] brain chemical imbalance. It has to be treated because of the danger of suicide. So we help nonpsychiatrists detect this," he said.

Among the findings of the 2007 survey were that those afflicted with mental problems had less formal education and were in difficult family situations, Dr. Tolentino said, adding that mental health problems might arise "the more stressors you have, and if you don't have enough resources to deal with the problem."

Diagnosing mental disorder is of "life-saving" importance, Dr. Tolentino said. In some celebrated cases of suicide, the "psychological autopsy" revealed that the suicidal person had shown a number of warning signs that were unfortunately undetected.

He cited a case where the suicidal person not only left a suicide note but also gave his automated teller machine number to his staff to give to his family after his death.

"There were a lot of signs but the people around them didn't detect that there was depression. It's life-saving to detect depression. It's preventable; there's something we can do to prevent it," he said.

It was learned that the survey findings jibed with the findings made more than a decade ago by the late Dr. Antonio Perlas, one of the country's leading practitioners of mental healthcare.

The1994 survey of Dr. Perlas, conducted in communities in Region VI (Western Visayas) with 3,000 respondents, showed that 14.3 percent or nearly two out of 10 persons suffered from a range of anxiety disorders including panic, phobia and general depression.

Dr. Tolentino said a nationwide survey is being planned to get a bigger picture of the mental health of Filipinos. (PIA 8) [top]

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