THE MOVIE ‘JOKER” made $100M on the first week-end and could launch the actor Joaquin Phoenix for at least an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

The riveting movie based on Gotham City (which could as well be New York) is a tale that explains what in society drives a man into extremes- either committing violence against others or killing oneself.

Movie buffs largely recall the Joker merely as a nemesis of DC hero Batman – and who is known for his funny if criminal antics than anything else. The more popular actors playing joker were Jack Nicholson in “Batman” and the late tragic actor Heath Ledger in “The Dark Night”.

The “Joker” Arthur Fleck here- lives in the squalor of the ghettos, supporting an ailing mother. He has an unhappy childhood, bullied in the streets at work and everywhere he goes. He was under the subsidized medical care of the state for his mental illness until “budget constraints forced the termination of such services’ in his locality. Sounds familiar when it comes to the budget cuts on the national budget of the Philippine’s Department of Health for 2020.

Conservatives abhor the movie for its violence and insanity. But Michael Moore however, says that the “greater danger in society maybe is if you can’t see the movie.” This film teaches the viewers the brutal reality of modern life- and having seen them and thus meeting the enemy- is able to do what must be done.

It is the best movie to watch in this Mental Health Month of October.

This comes on the heels of an announcement by Dr. Em-Em Uy (Provincial Health Office medical coordinator for non-communicable diseases) of the local hospital authorities in Bohol that a number of volunteers have signed up to address the growing menace of mental disorders in our community, notable suicide, depression, and schizophrenia. This is ably supported and endorsed by the Catholic Church here led by Bishop Abet Uy.

The first mental health intervention center is in Baclayon with a hotline number of 0916 336 9045 which will give 24/7 counseling for emotional crises and prevention of suicide. One hour late we do in responding could mean one life less-wasted in suicide or violence as the Joker who went kaput did in the movie.

There is a need to replicate this ground-breaking center in other parts as Bohol is quite a huge area to cover for one intervention center.

Every one of us must know and understand that the Mental health law has been passed since 2017. And that there are certain rights the public is entitled to and obligations that some institutions are mandated to fulfill under pain of legal punishment. This is under Republic Act No. 11036.

First, “Mental Health Services” must be made available at the community level: city, municipal and barangay levels. Do we have these?

Second-the DOH must provide mental health care facilities in provinces, cities, and clusters of municipalities.. Sec 18 of such law commands that every government regional, provincial and tertiary hospital (note INCLUDING PRIVATE HOSPITALS) must have a “Psychiatric, Psychological and Neurologic Services” facilities. How many hospitals do you know who are in compliance?

The intervention can be: for both in and outpatient, home care, drug rehabilitation, and referral systems.

Sec.21 provides that such hospitals must have an operating 24/7 telephone line for counseling services and spread awareness of the same. Sec. 37 also designates that such activities must be charged to the annual budget of the DOH under the General Appropriations Act.

Every Filipino must be conscious of the fact that the law obligates the hospitals to have an “Internal Review Board” that looks at all attended mental cases composed of representatives of the DOH, Commission on Human Rights, service user organization accredited by the Philippine Council for Mental Health and one other to be determined by the necessity as contemplated in the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Philippine Mental Law.

For the good of the Boholano community, everyone must be aware and be an activist is seeing to it that the letter of the new law on mental health is implemented. May God bless this new endeavor for the good of our people.

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