Policy Analysis on the Mental Health Needs of Overseas Filipino Workers: Addressing Gaps through Evidence-based Policy Reform

  • Ma. Esmeralda C. Silva
  • Ma-Ann M. Zarsuelo
  • Zenith D. Zordilla
  • Leonardo R. Estacio Jr.
  • Michael Antonio F. Mendoza
  • Carmencita D. Padilla
Keywords: Mental health, migrant workers, health policies, Philippines


Background. There is an increasing number of distressed Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) due to adverse working conditions and unresolved post-repatriation issues. The enactment of the Republic Act 11036 (Mental Health Act) in 2018 supports the commitment of the State in promoting and protecting the mental health of every Filipino.

Methods. A systematic review of literature was conducted to generate evidence-based policy tools for the round table discussion conducted by the UP Manila Health Policy Development Hub, engaging all major stakeholders from all sides of the policy issue. Strengths and challenges of the current government initiatives in the phases of predeployment, deployment, repatriation, and reintegration were discussed to attain consensus policy recommendations.

Results. Increased migration led to a cascade of distressed OFWs and their subsequent need for trained mental health professionals. In host countries, challenges in on-site services include (i) limited psychiatry practice as prescribed by law of the host countries, (ii) reciprocity of the host country in allowing more welfare officers, and (iii) budget to support more plantilla items of Assistance to Nationals (ATN) staff. The inter-agency collaboration and legal support for all phases of migration should be holistic and set.

Conclusions and Recommendations. From the literature review and policy discussion, consensus recommendations included strengthening pre-deployment preparation, curbing the trafficking of minors, improving psychiatry practice through the Bilateral Labor Agreement, developing psychosocial counseling competencies among front line host country personnel, enhancing telecounselling services and exploring telemedicine, among others.


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