Hey, everyone! We, Rikaela Gabriel and JP Apellido, are third-year psychology students from the Ateneo de Manila University. We are currently volunteers for Effective Altruism Philippines’ Cause Prioritization and Career Advice Research, which aims to find out what the best causes Filipinos can contribute to are and what career paths they can take to help in these causes. As part of this project, we wrote a research paper about the scale and neglectedness of mental health in the Philippines. This work was supervised by Brian Tan, co-founder of EA Philippines.
Objectives of the Study
We recently completed this paper, and we would like to share our findings with the EA community. Our research had three main objectives:
- Identify the different disorders and injuries associated with mental health in the Philippines
- Find out the DALY and prevalence burden of mental health disorders and self-harm cases (which we shortened as MHDSCs) in the Philippines
- Assess the neglectedness of MHDSCs in the Philippines in terms of budget allocation, available workforce, and available services and facilities that cater to mental health.
The larger goal of this research is to provide information to our target audience (impact-minded Filipinos) with data on if mental health is a big and neglected cause to work on locally, and to help inform them on which mental health disorders to focus on to improve mental health in the Philippines.
We would like to thank the following people for providing feedback on this report: Clare Donaldson and Caitlin Walker from the Happier Lives Institute, and the following members of EA Philippines: Nastassja Quijano, Marifel Geronimo, Elmerei Cuevas, and Janaisa Baril. Any potential errors in this paper are our own, and our opinions here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of those that gave feedback.
The results of the research suggest that mental health disorders have a high number of DALYs (disability-adjusted life years) and prevalence in the country. From the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) report of 2018, mental health disorders caused more than 2,000,000 DALYs in the Philippines, most of which are from anxiety disorders (23.5% of DALYs) and depressive disorders (22.2% of DALYs). In 2019, it was estimated that there were 15,000,000 cases of mental health disorders and self-harm cases in the country.
We also found and analyzed particular risk factors that the Global Burden of Disease report had data on for various mental health disorders. These can be classified under two categories: behavioral and environmental risks. Behavioral risk factors include alcohol use, drug use, bullying victimization, childhood sexual abuse, and intimate partner violence. Environmental risk factors include non-optimal temperature and lead exposure.
Despite the burden and prevalence of mental health disorders, there is a scarcity of mental health professionals and beds in mental health facilities relative to this. In the entire country, there are around two to three mental health workers per 100,000 of the population. This figure is low when contrasted to the global median of nine mental health workers per 100,000. Furthermore, the study showed that there are not enough beds in mental hospitals to keep up with annual admissions. In a dataset containing 131 countries, the Philippines is ranked 90th in terms of the number of beds in mental hospitals per 100,000 of the population.
However, between 2018 and 2019, the health budget allocated to mental health services increased from 0.002% to roughly 2.8%, a ~1,400x increase. This could be due to the enactment of the Mental Health Act in 2018, but the direct cause remains unknown.
For further research, we recommend that researchers look into the progress of mental health services since the enactment of the Mental Health Act, how good or bad the mental health budget is being allocated towards different programs, and the effectiveness of current mental health interventions by the government or non-profits. Moving forward, we will present our findings to other Filipinos as part of an EA Philippines event. In the next few months, we also plan on researching more on career paths or interventions to improve the state of mental health in the Philippines.
If you’re interested in reading more about this, you may view our paper through this link. We would highly appreciate your feedback. Should you have any comments or questions, feel free to reach out to us through our emails:
Rikaela Gabriel: firstname.lastname@example.org
JP Apellido: email@example.com