LGUs can consider these steps from a policy brief published by DLSU-JRIG in building or refining their mental health response programs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In February 2021, the De La Salle University - Jesse M. Robredo Institute of Governance issued a policy brief entitled, “Setting up a COVID-19 Mental Health Response Strategy among Local Government Units.”, showcasing the best practices of both public and private institutions in addressing the mental health-related issues posed by the pandemic. The authors then developed a strategic and collaborative way to develop local mental health programs in the country:
1. LGUs should lead in initiating a comprehensive mental health program and coordinate with various stakeholders such as the academe, church, and mental health professionals. They may also consider the Inter-agency Standing Committee (IASC) Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings, especially its intervention pyramid for mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS). See: Intervention pyramid for MHPSS (p. 12) from the IASC Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings
2. LGUs and stakeholders should move towards building awareness and capacitating individuals in diverse communities to help address mental health issues across different age groups.
3. LGUs should organize community-led mental health awareness campaigns to start conversations and disseminate helpful information regarding mental health to further reduce the existing stigma around it.
4. LGUs can also develop counseling and psychiatric teleconsultation services that can cater to all constituents by offering online and offline access such as voice or video calls, SMS, chat-based support, and toll-free hotlines.
5. Lastly, LGUs can develop local ordinances related to COVID-19 and mental health that can help with the stigma surrounding these two issues. Since the impacts of COVID-19 continue to manifest, it is significant that the response of the government and various sectors include concrete steps in taking care of the mental health of Filipinos. As the authors emphasized, “[a] mentally healthy population who work productively is vital to the community and the entire country” for its post-pandemic recovery (Yabut et al., 2021).