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DOH, USAID launch PH's first mobile app for self-care and mental health

By LAI S. REYES, The Philippine STAR Published Nov 23, 2021 5:00 am

Feeling stressed, overwhelmed, anxious or unwell? Do know that your feelings are valid. So, take a pause for a while, but keep going. Don’t stay in that black hole for too long.

As the world was gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health has become a global priority.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives.

Depression and anxiety affect around eight percent of the global population. In the Philippines, an estimated 3.3 million Filipinos are living with depression. This estimate was taken in 2016, well before COVID-19 hit our shores.

Philippine Mental Health Act

Mental health disorders give rise to numerous cases of intentional self-harm, including suicide.

In 2020, there were 3,529 reported cases of suicide deaths in the country. That’s a significant increase from the previous year as the country battled the pandemic.

The Lusog-Isip app can be downloaded on AppStore and will soon be available on PlayStore.

Policies have been put in place to make sure that mental health services are accessible and affordable for all.

However, gaps in the social environment for mental health promotion, information, leadership and governance, and services hinder the effort of promoting mental health and preventing mental disorders.

The Lusog-Isip app was created in response to the Filipinos' growing need for mental health services during the COVID-19 pandemic when face-to-face interventions weren’t allowed.

In June 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Mental Health Law. The passage of the bill into law and the succeeding stakeholders’ meeting gave rise to the Mental Health Strategic Plan 2019 to 2023 to provide the overall direction of the Mental Health Act.

“The Philippine Mental Health Act signed in 2018 is consistent with this global call to reframe mental health strategies,” noted DOH Disease Prevention and Control Bureau director Dr. Beverly Lorraine Ho during the 4th Public Health Convention on Mental Health with the theme, “Grateful and Hopeful: Building a Resilient Mental Health System.”

It affirms the country’s commitment to promote the well-being of Filipinos by ensuring that mental health conditions are treated and prevented through the provision of timely, affordable, high-quality and culturally appropriate mental healthcare.

Self-care is loving and listening to your needs and what will help get you through the day.

A mobile app for self-care and mental health awareness

As part of the 4th Public Health Convention on Mental Health, the Department of Health, in collaboration with USAID RenewHealth, launched “Lusog-Isip,” the first mobile app for self-care and mental health culturally adapted for Filipinos.

The app uses evidence-based tools and interventions. It was created in response to the Filipinos' growing need for mental health services during the COVID-19 pandemic where face-to-face interventions weren’t allowed.

Although there are many mental health and well-being applications in the market, none has been developed specifically for the Philippine setting.

The app will provide users with information about their overall well-being and how they cope with everyday life. This will also provide access to workbooks, audio-video guides, journaling, and other tools to help users through times of stress.

“The WHO has long espoused the importance of investing in self-care as an essential element of any mental health system,” shared Dr. Ho. “And so, Lusog-Isip is a timely innovation during a time when delivery of direct mental health services has become challenging.’

According to Ho, the development of this app fulfills three critical outcomes of the National Mental Health Agenda:

  • Improved mental health information system
  • Strengthened leadership and governance by harnessing and enhancing digital technology
  • Providing Filipinos with accessible, affordable and holistic mental health interventions that are evidenced-based and culturally appropriate.

“As emphasized by WHO, self-care is meant to work closely with the entire health system,” stressed Dr. Ho. “Thus, Lusog-Isip also enhances access to mental health and mental and psychosocial support service providers through a referral network available through the app.

The DOH and USAID RenewHealth collaborated to develop the app. It is hinged on the Mental Health Pyramid that suggests that for the majority of individuals, the basic mental health service needed is self-care. The Lusog-Isip app seeks to enable self-care related to mental health and substance abuse.

“We understand very well that substance abuse is part of the broader concern for mental health,” explained Michelle Lang-Alli, director, Office of Health, USAID Philippines.

At the launch of Lusog-Isip mobile app: Patrick Angeles, DOH program coordinator, USAID RenewHealth; Dr. Ma. Regina Hechanova-Alampay, chief of party, USAID RenewHealth; Frances Prescilla Cuevas, chief, Mental Health Division, DOH; Amadeus Pagente, supervising program health officer, DOH; Honey Obusan, event host; and Dr. Yolanda Oliveros, director, National Center for Disease Prevention and Control, DOH

USAID, through its RenewHealth project, has been working with partners and communities to enhance community-based drug rehabilitation and treatment services.

“At USAID, we recognize self-care as an essential element of mental health system, meant to work alongside other direct services to provide a holistic care,” Alli added. “And so, we need to empower people with the information and tools to keep themselves, their families, and their communities mentally healthy. Well, that’s what Lusog-Isip aims to do.”

The Lusog-Isip app can be downloaded on AppStore and will soon be available on PlayStore.