University of the Philippines Associate Professor in Health Policy and Administration Dr. Ronald Del Castillo urged the people to move towards community-based public mental health instead of a criminal justice approach.
In regards to the nation’s anti-illegal drugs campaign, Del Castillo emphasized that “the individual [substance user] is not the patient, but the community is.”
“Something’s not right in the community. When we see someone outside unsheltered, poor, and probably talking to himself, he is not the problem. We are the problem. We did not do enough to ensure that he’s not on the street,” Del Castillo said.
In a discussion, Del Castillo pointed out that what the community traditionally does in reducing the drug demand of substance users is the curative change. When something is wrong with an individual, it must be fixed whether he/she will undergo medications, therapy, or be in jail.
“In this model, we believe and just agree that the punishment cures whatever we do wrong,” he stressed.
After tackling the curative change, the UP professor introduced ameliorative change, in which there is a change in the system but is still problematic as “people do not question the fundamental values of the system, and there exists huge power imbalance as a community cannot change totally with having just psychiatrists or medical practitioners.”
“What I am encouraging you is to move towards more transformative change, and this is where community mental health lies. In other words, transformative change is fundamentally dismantling the great devout,” Del Castillo expressed.
Del Castillo, also an Associate Professor in Clinical Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, further explained that what is needed to be changed in the community currently is the pervasive microaggression.
“We assume inferiority towards people who use illegal substances – lower intelligence, incompetent … and because they have a history of drug use, they can’t possibly work,” he stated.
Moreover, he pointed out that instead of seeing those individuals as humans that can be productive, microaggression triggers people in the community to dehumanize them by perceiving them as “evil.”
“The fear of substance users that they’re gonna do something bad. When they go outside, look at the people around them… they circumvent – they go cross the street or go sideways because they’re afraid that they might do something … they are treated as second-class citizens,” the UP professor noted.
Lunar Fayloga, Chairperson of the Theology Department, shared that the community plays a significant role in an individual.
“It takes a community to raise a child, it takes a community to heal those people who are under substance use,” he said.