Relationship with the family, more than economic problems, causes mental disorders among Filipinos, according to the Philippine Psychiatric Association (PPI).
“All types of mental illnesses are caused by negative factors such as psychosocial stresses like economic (issues), interpersonal and intrapersonal relationship. Among these factors, the heaviest is (one’s relationship to the) family,” PPI Pres. Romeo Enriquez said in an interview.
While there is still yet to be a valid 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.
According to him, there are more people now who seek doctors’ consultation because of improved awareness on schizophrenia unlike in the past when families keep this condition highly secret because of 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,” explained Enriquez.
He however admitted that having someone afflicted with schizophrenia is more burdensome among poor families because of the cost of medication. The average cost of medicine for this type of mental disorder is between Php200-Php300 which is taken orally and 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/she has gone worse,” he said.
Enriquez said new drugs for schizophrenia have also emerged 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 move like robots,” he said.
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 recently.
According to him, the best way to treat a schizophrenia patient is between two to five years of the condition’s onset adding that this is a “critical period when the disease is most aggressive.”
He however noted that some patients do not adhere to continuous medication because the disorder “impairs” one’s disability to recognize one’s mental condition. Others dread taking oral pills daily.
Emsley said patients are now more comfortable taking injectable drugs that are not administered everyday. Johnson & Johnson Philippines, for instance, 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 such as the risk of one harming self and others.