Dear Everyone: Your Mental Health Matters
by Anne Marielle Eugenio, April 16, 2019 4:00pm
Art by Ahl Mirambel
We grew up in a culture where optimism is one of the main valued traits. Our positivity even earned the Philippines its rank as one of the happiest countries and optimistic nations in the world. Even without the ranking, we know these traits are intact within our culture. It’s as if nothing can make Filipinos sad. Or should we say, nothing should make us sad?
Mental health issues are one of the things we avoid to talk about. There’s a stigma surrounding mental health. In a country where “optimistic” people rule, it’s as if talking about depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses have no place in a country. There’s also the misconception of seeing a psychiatrist means you’ve totally “lost your mind” or only privileged people suffer. Sharing stories about mental health struggles is difficult, but it’s something we shouldn’t delay any longer, especially when there is an alarming statistics involved: from 2005 to 2015, 3.3 million Filipinos suffer from depression alone.
We know you don’t like to be judged or hear comments like “Mas malala pa nga ‘yung pinagdadaanan ni *insert name* kaysa sa ‘yo” or “Nag-iinarte lang ‘yan.” Sometimes, people tend to be quiet about this issue because they’re aware of possible discrimination—to be treated differently than “normal” people. Some of the older generations view mental health conditions as irrelevant and would only put your family to shame since it’s associated with being baliw or psychotic. As a result, people who suffer mental health illness remain to avoid any conversations about their internal struggle.
Depression is a serious illness even if doesn’t have any physical symptoms. If not treated properly, it could lead to suicide.
Depressive disorders are often related to sadness, but it’s more than feeling down. If you noticed symptoms like a change in your sleep pattern, loss of appetite, loss of interest in things that excite you, it’s time to do a self-check—especially if you had experiences like have just lost a loved one, had a trauma caused by abuse, unemployment, or other adverse life events. Depression is a serious illness even if doesn’t have any physical symptoms. If not treated properly, it could lead to suicide.
We still have a long way to go before we can entirely break the stigma surrounding mental health, but we are taking baby steps. These steps help, no matter how small. The Philippine government recognizes the importance of not only of our body but of our mind. In 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Mental Health Act which aims to “uplift the mental health of the population and ensure the welfare and rights of those with mental, neurological and substance use disorders.”
In addition, national health insurance PhilHealth now covers mental and behavioral disorders. They shoulder 7,800php and applies to hospitalized patients. Lawmakers are aiming to expand mental health care packages in the long run.
Not everyone will understand what you are going through that’s for sure. But when you’ve had enough and reached your breaking point, all you have to do is reach out to the right people. Confide to your most trusted friend or loved one. If you think you need professional help, there are free consultations about mental health you could invest in. You can talk to experts about your condition without the fear of being judged.
Coping with depression or other mental health issues is difficult. There are many ways to cope with depression but do it at your own pace. Always remember to love yourself first. And please know you are stronger than you think. That you are still here despite your constant battles with your demons proves you are strong enough to conquer depression.