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MANILA, Philippines -- Family relations, more than economic problems, are the main cause of mental disorders among Filipinos, the head of the Philippine Psychiatric Association has suggested.
“All types of mental illnesses are caused by negative factors such as psychosocial stresses like economic (issues), interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships. Among these factors I think the heaviest is (one’s relationship with the) family,” PPA president Romeo Enriquez said in an interview.
While there is yet to be a validated study on the mental wellness of Filipinos, Enriquez said international data places the number of schizophrenia patients in the country at 0.5 to 1.5 percent of the population.
He noted that more people now seek help because of improved awareness abnout schizophrenia unlike in the past, when families kept the condition highly secret because of the fear of being stigmatized by society.
“In the past people would just recognize it when the patient is brought to the National Center for Mental Health because the condition is already in the advanced stage. But now people bring the patient to a doctor once they recognize some symptoms,” Enriquez explained.
However, he admitted that having someone afflicted with schizophrenia is more burdensome among poor families because of the cost of medication, which is between P200-300 daily.
“Sometimes they are not able to sustain their medication so they delay until the patient is brought to a government mental facility because he or she has gone worse,” he said.
Enriquez said new drugs for schizophrenia have been developed that help patients live a normal life like everybody else.
“It’s no longer as it used to be that a patient is brought immediately to a mental asylum. With the new medicines we have now, the person (you see walking) down the street you won’t even know is taking medication unlike 20 years ago when patients taking psychiatric medicines moved like robots,” he said.
But patient’s adherence to medication is a major challenge among psychiatrists, said Dr. Robin Emsley, professor at the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Stellenbosh in Cape Town.
“Until now we have failed miserably in treating the illness of schizophrenia,” said Emsley who spoke before members of the PPA on Saturday.
He said the best time to treat a schizophrenic is between two to five years of the condition’s onset, the “critical period when the disease is most aggressive.”
But he noted that some patients do not adhere to continuous medication because the disorder “impairs” one’s ability to recognize one’s mental condition. Others dread taking pills daily.
Emsley did say patients are now more comfortable taking injectable drugs that are not administered everyday.
Johnson & Johnson Philippines has recently introduced Paliperidone palmitate, a long-acting injectable that is administered once monthly for the treatment of schizophrenia.
Emsley said it is important for patients to continue treatment because a relapse may cause serious consequences, especially the risk of harming oneself and others.