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Psyching up Psychology

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Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa has urged the Civil Service Commission to review the requirements asked of clinical psychologists and psychiatrists, who are required to do so much but are only assigned salary grade 11 in government.

“The problem in (the field of) psychology in government is that there is a need for a master’s degree but is only assigned salary grade 11,” said the Department of Health chief during the launch of the Philippine Council for Mental Health Strategic Framework in Manila.

He added, “How can we encourage applicants for guidance counselor items if that is the case. I’m calling the CSC to change that,” stressing that a higher salary should be given to psychologists.

Herbosa cited as an example nurses, who are assigned salary grade 15. “They don’t have master’s degree yet, but they are assigned salary grade 15. That should be (salary grade) 15 or even higher (for psychologists).”

In partnership with the World Health Organization, the DOH launched the PCMH Strategic Framework to guide the development and implementation of mental health policies, programs, and services to address the significant burden of mental illness and improve mental health and well-being in the country. The five-year strategic plan aims to reduce premature mortality, prevent and treat substance abuse effectively, and reduce the vulnerability of individuals and communities to mental, neurological, and substance use disorders.

If the Health Secretary was not just being patronizing to his audience and is really capable of doing something about the plight of psychologists and psychiatrists during his promised call with the Civil Service Commission, it would be a great help to the practitioners of mental health, and those afflicted with the disease that have no access to proper care and treatment because of the lack of qualified experts, as they would naturally prefer work somewhere else, rather than accept a pittance from a government that neither appreciates nor prioritizes their field.

And even if the DOH head fails to achieve anything significant with one phone call, we can still hope that it wasn’t just lip service and that the long ignored sector has finally gained a champion who will work with his peers in the executive branch, along with other branches of government, to make things right for the psychologists and psychiatrists that this country desperately needs, starting with how well they are paid for service in government.*

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