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Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday urged the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to fully enforce its mental health (MH) programs for typhoon survivors, even after they leave the evacuation centers.

“Millions have been affected by these devastating typhoons. With crisis upon crisis, we are at risk of free-falling into a deep mental health crisis if we don’t act swiftly,” she said.

“Mental health should be front and center along with food, water, and sanitation in evacuation centers,” Hontiveros said.

The senator flagged the “snail-paced” implementation of the disaster-related MH programs since the Department of Health (DOH) and DSWD reported that guidelines were still being crafted.

“The crisis is happening right now. We need to fast-track guidelines and roll out services immediately. MH is an invaluable part of rebuilding our lives after a crisis,” Hontiveros said.

“MH issues like anxiety and depression make it much harder for typhoon survivors to recover. This will affect their work, their schooling and can scar their relationships if we do not heed their needs promptly,” she said.

“Hindi nagagamot ang mental health problems overnight. It is important that the services they receive aren’t one-time, big-time. We should monitor the survivors to ensure that they receive therapy as needed and medicine if prescribed,” she added.

Hontiveros said that mental health should be integrated in the disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) plan of the country “from planning to monitoring, at both national and local levels, and from readiness to resilience.”

She said it is important to learn from Yolanda, whose survivors are still experiencing anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) seven years later because of the late MH response.

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