Mental Health and Human Rights: The Philippine Scenario
|June Caridad Pagaduan- Lopez, MD|
Fellow, Philippine Psychiatric Association
Professor of Psychiatry, University of the Philippines (retired)
On second Re-election as an Expert Member, United Nations Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture
Convenor, Citizens' Network for Psychosocial Response
Executive Director, Balik Kalipay Center for Psychosocial Response
Lead author: Philippine Mental Health Act of 2018
June Pagaduan-Lopez (born 1951) has worked for more than three decades in varied fields- human rights protection, psychosocial intervention in humanitarian emergencies such as natural calamities and armed conflict, peace advocacy, humanistic education in Medicine, gender and women's rights, trauma and stress management. As a professor at the University of the Philippines (UP) and a psychiatrist, she has helped human rights abuse victims in the Philippines and in other countries and contributed to the development of a more humane approach to medical practice. In the medical profession, she is at the forefront of psychosocial trauma management. She is currently the Convenor for the Citizens' Network for Psychosocial Response, a network of NGOs and volunteers responding to calamities.
She was introduced to human rights work as a student activist before and during the Martial Law era. After graduating from medical school in 1976 and having finished her residency in psychiatry in 1979, she helped found the Medical Action Group (MAG), a non-government, cause-oriented organization that provided medical and psychosocial support to victims of human rights abuses of the Marcos regime. Her work on torture victims resulted in the establishment of the Philippine Action Against Torture. At the UP Medical School, she worked for the implementation of a Human Rights Course for Medical Students, the only one of its kind to be mainstreamed into an undergraduate medical curriculum in the country.
A founding member of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), she has trained medical practitioners in the detection, management and rehabilitation of torture victims and other survivors of political violence in the Philippines, East Timor, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Burma, Cambodia and Kosovo. In East Timor, she managed a nationwide research project on the psychosocial effects of war trauma in coordination with the United Nations Transition Administration (UNTAET).
Back in the Philippines, Dr. Lopez decided to implement the East Timor concept in the war-torn regions of Muslim Mindanao. In 2002, using foreign and local government funds, she started "Balik-Kalipay" (Return to Happiness), a psychosocial intervention project for victims of armed conflict. It covered 15 villages training primary public school teachers and daycare workers more than 200 youth volunteers.
In current and post-conflict communities, community organization, healing and empowerment can be integrated into reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts. Dr. June Lopez has mobilized the academe, government and international institutions and NGOs to help the traumatized sectors in conflict areas. She actively served as a consultant and resource person for the National Commission on Culture and Arts for their post Haiyan interventions in areas affected by the calamity. In relation to disaster and humanitarian emergencies, Dr. Lopez founded and currently acts as the Convenor of Citizens' Network for Psychosocial Response or CNETPSR and President of the SEC registered Balik Kalipay Center for Psychosocial Response. In the light of the many major natural and man-made disasters that has hit the Philippines in the last ten years including the major calamities of 2013 such as Typhoon Haiyan (Typhoon Yolanda), the Bohol earthquake, and the Moro National Liberation Front siege of Zamboanga, Dr. Lopez with the support of her team has been involved in numerous MHPSS interventions both for direct survivors and first responders.
Her special interest and experience is in the line of trauma therapy and stress management. She has organized and conducted numerous trauma and stress training workshops for caregivers as well as survivors of extreme life events such as journalists, government and corporate management, sexual assault survivors, victims of criminal violence as well as armed conflict.
For her work she has received the Leo and Lisl Eitinger Human Rights Award from the University of Oslo in 1991, has been nominated to the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize as one of the One Thousand Peace Women of the World and given the 2007 Most Outstanding Psychiatrist for Community Service Award by the Philippine Psychiatric Association. The University of the Philippines Alumni Association also honored her with an Outstanding Alumni Award in 2010.
Dr. Lopez is currently serving her second term as an elected Expert Member of the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights in the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture which oversees compliance with the Optional Protocol on the Convention Against Torture. It has been ratified by 88 State Parties as of June 2018. Dr. Lopez is the rapporteur/team head for the Asia Pacific region.
As a faculty of the Department of Psychology of the College of Arts at the De La Salle University-Taft, Dr. Lopez pioneered the teaching of an elective postgraduate course on Trauma and Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS). Its curriculum harnesses her 30 years of involvement in trauma therapy and disaster response. The course is now on its fifth year and notably a highly favored elective of both masteral and doctoral students of Psychology.
She is the proud mother of three wonderful children- Kim, Kaye and Kirsten.