What You Need To Know About Depression And The Country’s Mental Health State
In the Philippines, depression is one of the most common mental health concerns, especially among the younger generations. Over the years, the country has made progress in terms of creating awareness and taking action towards mental health issues, but we still have ways to go.
Depression by the numbers
According to the Department of Health (DOH), depression is one of the most common health problems among youth around the world. In the Philippines, 3.3 percent of the population suffered from depressive disorders in 2012. In 2015, DOH conducted the Global School-Based Student Health Survey among high school students aged 13 to 15 years old, and 11.5 percent of those participants “had seriously considered attempting suicide in the past 12 months before the survey.” The same survey found that 11.1 percent of participants had made plans on attempting suicide while 17 percent had attempted it.
What exactly is depression?
Depressive disorders manifest in various forms, which include the classic condition called major depressive disorder. Other forms include dysthymia (or persistent depressive disorder), disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder, among others.
Depressive disorders are commonly characterized by the presence of sad, empty, or irritable mood which often comes with changes in bodily and intellectual processes that significantly impair the normal day-to-day functioning of an individual. According to the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), the nine symptoms of depression are:
- Depressed mood
- Disruption in sleeping patterns (suffering from either inability to sleep or excessive sleepiness)
- Decreased interest or pleasure
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Loss of energy or fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating or thinking, or indecisiveness
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Psychomotor disturbance
- Recurrent suicidal thoughts
Important note: Careful consideration must be made to distinguish depression from normal feelings of sadness. In depression, symptoms exist nearly every day for a duration of at least two weeks and cause significant distress or impairment in social or occupational aspects of the individual. If you are experiencing any of these, it is advisable that you consult with a professional for proper diagnosis.
Mental health initiatives in the Philippines
In the country, various movements and organizations have been established to bring light to the nation’s mental health situation.
The National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) is a government-established hospital which offers preemptive, restorative, and rehabilitative psychiatric services for Filipinos battling with mental health issues. NCMH was founded in 1925 under the Public Works Act 3258 and operates under the Department of Health. Its previous names include the Insular Psychopathic Hospital and National Mental Hospital before being renamed to National Center for Mental Health.
Mental Health Act
In 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Republic Act 11036, also referred to as the Mental Health Law. Its author and principal sponsor is Senator Risa Hontiveros, but it was also authored by Senators Vicente Sotto III, Loren Legarda, Antonio Trillanes IV, Paolo Begino Aquino IV, Juan Edgardo Angara, and Joel Villanueva.
The fulfillment of a law governing mental health is a huge milestone for the country. Its primary goal is to offer more affordable and attainable psychiatric services for those in need, regardless of their socio-economic status.
Hopeline was created by the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation as a 24/7 suicide prevention and crisis support helpline. In 2016, the DOH, together with NCMH, incorporated Hopeline into their mental health campaign. Three years later, Hopeline announced that they will be ceasing operations following the withdrawal of support from both DOH and NCMH. However, Hopeline made a subsequent statement to clarify that, with the help of NGOs and individual donors, they will continue with operation despite DOH and NCMH’s withdrawal from the initiative.
Mental health initiatives in schools
Given that the youth make up a considerable percentage of the population significantly affected by mental health issues, various schools have taken action to not only expand students’ understanding about the experiences they’re going through but also help them cope and promote mental well-being.
Ateneo de Manila University
Ateneo’s student government Sanggunian launched a Commission on Mental Health which seeks to provide ways for Ateneans to share and ask for help regarding their mental health concerns. One of their initiatives is the Mental Health Awareness Week, created in partnership with student organizations Ateneo Psyche and Ateneo PEERS, which initiates various week-long activities and campaigns to help promote knowledge about mental health issues, particularly ones the students themselves are experiencing.
Ateneo is also home to the Ateneo Bulatao Center for Psychological Services, which serves as the service and research arm of the university’s Psychology Department. It is named in honor of Fr. Jaime C. Bulatao, SJ, a Jesuit who established Ateneo’s Psychology Department in 1960 and served as one of the founders of the Psychological Association of the Philippines. Ateneo Bulatao Center offers assessment, counseling, and therapy, and intends to nurture psychological wellness in and outside of the institution.
De La Salle University
In 2019, De La Salle University – Dasmariñas’ Student Wellness Center and the Psychology Department's Center for Applied Psychology launched their first Mental Health Youth Summit which intends to educate the students about the significance of mental health. The said summit is required for freshmen in order to instill its advocacy early on in their college life.
Far Eastern University
In a story by CNN Philippines, Far Eastern University (FEU) Director for Guidance and Counseling Sheila Marie Hocson stated that freshman students are being educated about how to recognize symptoms of mental health issues. Aside from mental health, they are also opening discourse about sexual harassment, bullying, and HIV awareness. In addition, Hocson mentioned that a referral system is put into place within the school, where peers and faculty members alike may refer a student to their office if they display signs like absenteeism, lack of energy, abusive behavior, sleepiness in class, lack of personal hygiene, low self-esteem, or poor academic performance. They also offer to refer students to psychiatrists should they identify telltale signs of mental health concerns.
University of the Philippines
In 2018, the University of the Philippines Diliman officially hired their first resident psychiatrist. The University Health Service (UHS) only had psychiatric consultants prior to hiring Dr. Dinah Palmera P. Nadera for the part-time position. According to Dr. Nadera, the most common concerns she has been consulted by students for were persistent anxiety, depressed mood, and lack of focus and concentration, among others. As part of the UHS medical staff, Dr. Nadera will be offering her services for free to students and to the academic and non-academic staff of the university.
How to help someone with depression
We consulted with Alyda Yasmin A. Keh, MA, RPsy, a consulting psychologist at the Ateneo Bulatao Center for Psychological Services, for guidelines on how to talk to a friend or classmate with depression.
Let them know that they are not alone. The last thing we want is to make someone struggling with depression feel like they don’t have anyone to approach. Encourage them to talk about how they are feeling and what thoughts are running through their minds. This will allow you to know if they are thinking of harming themselves so that you can get them professional help. If the person is not ready to talk, respect their privacy and let them know that they can talk about it when they feel more ready.
Reassure them that they aren’t alone by telling them that they can text or call you should they feel like they want to talk. Sometimes, you might take time to respond but assure them that you will reach them once you are able to. Do not make promises you cannot fulfill.
Check up on them regularly. More than telling the person that you’re there for them, show them that you really are. Ask them how they’re doing from time to time. Doing so reassures them that you’re thinking of them and that you’re staying true to your word.
Just remember, it’s not just about talking, but also about listening. Sometimes, the fact that someone is there to listen to your concerns is already comforting enough. Remember to be non-judgmental. You are there to hear them out, not to tell them what they should think or feel. You don’t have to respond with solutions—doing so might be counter-productive and won’t help the person at all. Instead, just simply hear them out and pay attention to what they’re saying.
Encourage them to talk to a professional. At the end of the day, there’s only so much we can do for someone dealing with mental health concerns. It’s still best to seek and receive professional help. What you can do is to perhaps recommend trusted professionals you may know of or offer to go with them to appointments if they want company.
Depression as the “invisible illness”
Depression is real, but it isn’t always easily recognizable in a person, which is why many still misconstrue the condition as something that is “all in the head.” It may seem like all is well with that bubbly classmate who always makes the funniest remarks during class, but deep inside, they may be struggling with depressive episodes that manifest in subtle and different ways. This shows how important it is to pay attention to the people around us, as well as to our own internal mental state.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts, here are some important numbers and websites in the Philippines:
Crisis Line (for non-sectarian, non-judgmental telephone counseling):
Landline: (02) 893-7603
Globe Duo: 0917-8001123 / 0917-5067314
Sun Double Unlimited: 0922-8938944 / 0922-3468776
Center for Family Ministries (for spiritual counseling):
Landline: (02) 426-4289 to 92
Ateneo Bulatao Center
Landine: (02) 426-5982
Online resources for mental health and suicide prevention:
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I don't know. by Mariella Ysabel Amatus
I don’t know what to do. I feel lost. I don’t know what to do. I feel alone. I don’t know what to do. I feel abandoned. Dreams are things we ought to have. Without them, we might never know where will our future take us. We seem to be trained to have them. I want to be a nurse. I want to be a doctor. I want to be an engineer. I want to be a lawyer. Those are the lines children tell in front of people. It seems simple to dream. To have an ambition. Well, I thought it is. But, now, as I put a book on my lap, thinking about where my fate will lead me, it isn’t.
I feel drowned in the responsibility of knowing what I wanted. The season of college entrance tests are coming. Yet, I feel nothing but doubtful. I studied, but now, I am not doing such a thing. I felt so engrossed the last time I checked myself months ago. Now, I am unsure of what I want to do. I have to study. Yes, I know. However, I feel so dismissive to do something. I can’t even point out what’s the problem in me.
What am I doing? I must go, open some books, and study hard. But, I am never doing it in this present moment. Instead of challenging myself with tons of knowledge, I am here writing this passage with my mind resonating with unspoken words and truth. I seem insane, right? What will happen to me if I keep on doing nothing? Well, simple. I will never be successful - I know that. Then, what must I do?
Asking myself such a question will never suffice what I really need. Because, I’ve been asking myself questions all the time. Yet, I’ve never come up with answers. I don’t know what to do. I feel like being pained. I don’t know what to do. I feel like being tortured. I don’t know what to do. I feel like being misunderstood. I don’t know what to do. I don't know.
A Stranger "Things"
strangers can be not strangers, they can be someone else
Isn't it intimidating to interact with strangers? Majority will say "yes" certainly. No doubt, parents also come up with their very classic "Don't talk to strangers" smart advice for their children. But come to realize to take the opposite approach of it as we grow older, there's a tangled idea in our head it it is beneficial or not.
Finding comfort to someone we don't know is like finding a needle in the bunch of hay. A blurry-blurry thing, a no-percent no-possibility to happen. But not to compare, for others it's like their way of finding comfort, way to socialize, way to widen their circle of acquaintance, that's why psychologist somewhat agree with it. If the person didn't give you a ghastly vibe, why not give it a try to interact. It's kinda weird thing to open doors for strangers,but at the same time, its interesting. Think of this, why its easy for others to share secretes of them, or to have pretty intimate conversation to random person? Cause they say, "No judgement".
Why its okay to ask help to person we dont know if we are in unfamiliar place? Cause they can help us, and same goes in other way. Bottomline, Strangers are not just strangers or a person we dont know, or a person that our parents taught us not to talk to. They can be someone else who can help us in times of unfamiliarity of places or thing. They can be the person who sit next to you in the bus who ask for a little help for direction and end up having a great conversation.
They can be a lot more we didn't expect to, and you can tell by yourself that your best of friends you have today are once a complete stranger to you yet you end up having a strong bond of friendship. They are the person we completely don't know, we dont know their upbringings or what, but sometimes the can be more helpful to us than the others we know. By simply having a casual conversation with them, we're not noticing that they are giving us a diffirent approach to different aspects in life and unfortunately, this idea overpowers by just word "stranger". Hopefully, maybe now or then, we're very thankfull that we took the opposite approach of "do not talk to strangers"
Hi Candy! I saw a repost of your IG story from one of my good friends who happens to be your candy rookie, Margaux Nonato, about students who started their business this quarantine season. I wanted to submit my own story as well but didn’t have the guts to do so, until I read the stories of some students who happen to share the same experience as mine!
Telling my own story might be a little overdue, now that you’ve already published the article but I wanted to give this a try still if it means inspiring other people as well. I am an incoming third year medical student from De La Salle Medical and Health Sciences Institute and I have also decided to do something productive (aside from studying my backlogs of course) and something unique that may help me to challenge myself into exploring new things aside from human anatomy, pathology, and all those medical greatness.
Kudos to everyone who decided to start their online businesses! I must say it isn’t easy at all so we all deserve a round of applause for doing great and getting this far! I’ve always been a fan of baking since I was a kid. I remember making my own chocolate chip cookies when I was in second year high school and back then, I only baked with a microwave (since our oven was whack) and used choco choco as the chocolate in my cookies ???? they are not as bad as they seem! Trust me!
Since then I’ve always dreamed of finding the perfect recipe. I took Biochemistry in college and went straight to studying Medicine so my plan in finding the perfect recipe was always postponed since studying for my future patients will always be my number one priority. (Naks) Then Coronavirus happened. I just finished my last semester for 2nd year Med last June and I’ve decided to finally come up with the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe, then tried selling them for extra allowance to help in our expenses. In addition to my chocolate chip cookie recipe, I’ve also managed to bake chocolate crinkles and different varieties of brownies! Who would’ve thought that a super busy medical student would have the chance to bake and create her own online business as well? (While in Med School!!!)
So then I started my online business, named “Harina Manila”.You can also find it on instagram and facebook @harina.manila!! I like to call my baked goods “paboridough” because the ones that I bake are indeed my favorites and I‘d like to share it with everyone. Kaya sa mga broken hearted jan, dibale nang hindi ka niya pinili, sa Harina Manila, ikaw ang aming paboridough ???? (hahaha corny!) From deciding what to name your business, to buying ingredients almost every week, and finding the right packaging that fits your style, starting your own online business really takes time and dedication! But as they say, kapag may tiyaga, may nilaga!
This goes not only to medical students like me, but to all students who are struggling to keep themselves sane this quarantine season. Amidst the pandemic that we are facing right now, I hope that we may not forget to take good care of ourselves both physically and mentally. May we find the courage to remain optimistic and try new things that could help us grow and become better. Sharing with you my story this quarantine season, I hope I may be able to inspire other people into believing that they too, can do something amazing, heck there’s no limit to what we can all achieve! As long as we work hard for it, malayo ang mararating natin! I thank you, Candy Mag, for spreading good vibes and inspiration to everyone by publishing good stories! To all the lovely readers who took their time to read Candy’s article, if this ever gets published, I hope you remind yourselves today that you are capable of doing amazing things and that there is no limit to what you can achieve. Fighting! Dont forget to visit, like, and follow my page on Facebook and Instagram, Harina Manila (@harina.manila) and try out some of our baked goods! We got you covered, my paboridough! Thank you! ??
Poetry #1 YOUR SMILE
Just the thought of you gives me fluttering butterflies in my stomach. I love the way you smile like there's just too many passion inside you. It gives me warmth-- your warmth that needs to spread in your cheeks, in your eyes, the wrinkles on your nose and on the corner of your temples that I wanted to kiss with pure gentleness.
When you smile, I always trace back the years when I haven't known you. Where I didn't have the chance to smile back and talk to you even for a short time. To intertwine your fingers in mine or put my arms around you and feel all the vibrations inside you that gives me warmth, comfort and joy. I love seeing you smile even virtually-- because it makes me relive all the times that I still got the chance to see you personally. That is now becoming a beautiful blur.