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It’s Okay To Ask For Help Even When You Aren’t Struggling As Much As The Next Person, Psychiatrist Says

As part of the #BreakTheStigma campaign, mental health experts and advocates say there is nothing wrong with asking for and needing help.
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Nowadays, people are more empowered to open up about their struggles with mental health. It helps to have an accessible platform like social media as another avenue for self-expression. We can easily put across our thoughts or get in touch with other people for help. Despite this, many are still misinformed or uneducated about issues pertaining to our mental well-being. There’s still plenty of ground to cover when it comes to dismantling the stigma surrounding mental health.

One effort that aims to break that stigma is the recent mental health conference organized by Upjohn, a division of Pfizer, held in Makati City on October 17. The conference aims to start conversations on mental health by inviting experts and advocates alike to discuss accurate and pertinent data, provide expert advice, as well as share their own thoughts about the current state of mental health in the country.

By the numbers

Depression and anxiety are two of the most common mental health conditions experienced by people around the world. In the country, 3.3 million Filipinos—that’s 3.3 percent of the total population—suffer from depressive disorders, while 3.1 million or 3.1 percent of the total population suffer from anxiety disorders.

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In 2012, there were 2,558 reported suicide cases and 8 in 10 of the reported cases were among males. Young adults and teenagers aged 15 to 23 years old have the highest risk for suicide. In the Philippines, the suicide rate in 2012 was at 2.9 per 100,000 Filipinos, the lowest rate among the ASEAN countries.

Currently, there are around 101 million Filipinos, but only 700 of which are registered psychiatrists and 1,000 are psychiatric nurses. For every 100,000 Filipinos, there are only two mental health workers available to attend to them.

Additionally, only 5 percent of the Department of Health's budget is allocated for mental health. But now that the Republic Act No. 11036, also known as the Mental Health Law, has been signed into law, Filipinos look forward to a more accessible and comprehensive mental health program. 

#BreakTheStigma

Talking about how we felt nervous and restless in school isn’t exactly as easy as telling someone we caught a cold. Compared to colds, feeling nervous doesn’t necessarily have any immediate physical manifestations that are easily observable by someone else, which is why people struggle to accept it as a symptom of an impending health concern.

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For Riyan Portuguez of Mental Health PH, a nonprofit organization geared towards fostering a mentally healthy community especially through social media and digital technology, people seem to associate the term “mental health” with its negative aspects, which further engraves the stigma surrounding the topic. Consequently, many who struggle with mental health concerns find it difficult to open up for fear of being seen as weak. Riyan shares, however, that asking for help and talking about their struggles actually take a lot of courage to do.

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For Janna Pulido, also of Mental Health PH, the biggest misconception she noticed about mental health is that people used to think that only girls are allowed to have problems and ask for help because only girls are "allowed to cry." Now, however, she's observed that people are starting to forgo the false impression as more and more men have started to come forward for help. 

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Riyan also stresses that it’s okay to talk about your problems. As family members or friends of people who experience mental health issues, we must also be open to initiate the conversation and reach out to them to let them know that it’s safe to confide and ask for help from you.

What can we do when a peer opens up to us about their struggles with mental health?

According to Dr. Robert Buenaventura, a psychiatrist and a life fellow at the Philippine Psychiatric Association, even those who might not be clinically diagnosed with mental health conditions experience daily struggles with mental health. Despite the absence of diagnosis, however, people shouldn't be discouraged to ask for professional help. He says, “Not all of us will have mental health disorders, but some of us will have mental health concerns, and these are individuals who may benefit from seeking professional consultation as well.”

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When a peer opens up about their struggle with mental health, our primary response would be to help. Despite having good intentions, our idea of help might not always be effective and may actually be doing the opposite. During the mental health conference, we asked Dr. Buenaventura for guidelines on how to effectively express support for fellow students.

Encourage them to seek counseling within your school.

“What we recommend to schools would be two things. Number one, there should be a guidance counseling office,” Dr. Buenaventura shares. According to him, however, not all schools may have the means to hire full-time guidance counselors who can provide immediate help to students in need. “Ang second recommendation namin is to develop a peer-counseling service. Students, young adults, and teenagers usually prefer to talk to peers. So you select a group of individuals who are compassionate and empathetic, and train them. They’re not going to be the full-time counselors, but they can do the initial steps.”

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Let your peer know you’re open to listening to them when they’re ready to share their problems.

Dr. Buenaventura emphasizes the importance of peer support. “Usually, young adults would prefer or are more open to talking to close friends.” He says that, oftentimes, having someone who’s willing to listen to you without judgement is already comforting to know. “What I often teach my students is the process of psychological first aid. The first step is reflective listening. They don’t need to provide constructive advice. You can simply listen to the person, because oftentimes, we just need to be able to vent.”

If you or anyone you know is struggling with depression, suicidal thoughts, and other mental health concerns, here are some important numbers and websites in the Philippines:

Crisis Line (for free, non-judgmental, and anonymous telephone counseling):

Landline: (02) 893-7603

Globe Duo: 0917-800-1123 / 0917-506-7314

Sun Double Unlimited: 0922-893-8944 / 0922-346-8776

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www.in-touch.org

National Center for Mental Health Crisis Hotline:

(02) 989-USAP (989-8727)

0917-899-USAP (0917-899-8727)

Center for Family Ministries (for spiritual counseling):

www.cefam.ph

Landline: (02) 426-4289 to 92

Ateneo Bulatao Center:

Landine: (02) 426-5982

E-mail: bulataocenter.ls@ateneo.edu

Online resources for mental health and suicide prevention:

www.suicide.org

www.iasp.info

www.afsp.org

www.befrienders.org

www.imalive.org

www.thehopeline.com

www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

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To the Person Who Does Not Know Any 1D Song

By: CJ Reyno

Never in my wildest dream I imagined to meet someone who does not know a single One Direction song or who does not even know, Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson, Liam Payne, Niall Horan, and err… Zayn Malik. How did you spend your teenagehood without listening to their songs? The disrespect to my #StyPayHorLikSon. My initial reaction, Vas Happenin’?

Since I was 12 years old, that was way back on 2012, One Direction songs have been my official life soundtrip, my go-to songs whenever I feel happy, sad, mad, excited, and etch. I can still remember how people went crazy just to attend their concert here in the Philippines. I must admit, I was one of those. LOL. The group was also dubbed as, “The Biggest Boyband in the World”. They were an era. You really left me in awe when you told me that you do not know a single One Direction song. Their songs are gold. But I was a little hopeful when a new messaged popped up on our conversation, “Hey I know one, Make You Beautiful”.

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You do not know how my world collapsed after reading your message. I would like to say that I appreciate the effort, thanks, but they do not have a song entitled, Make You Beautiful, because it is, What Makes You Beautiful. I tried to explain but you said that they are just the same. (Tip: Never fight with a Directioner when it comes to this because we will not let our guards down). No! They are not the same. How can you make this big mistake? LOL. What Makes You Beautiful is One Direction’s debut song. Almost everyone knows this, “you’re insecure, don’t know what for,” ring a bell? The music video of this surpassed 1 billion views on Youtube. On my 21 years of existence, you are the very first person who told me this “I-Thought-It-Was-A-Joke-But-You-Are-Serious” statement.

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As a persuasive fangirl, I thought to myself that I should make you appreciate their music, that you should know that it is What Makes You Beautiful, not Make You Beautiful. The group may be in hiatus but their music is and will always remain superior. You are hard-headed lad. We even when to the point where you challenged me to treat so I can make you watch their music video. Am I even surprised that I agreed to this? HAHA. I feel like an agent trying to persuade her customer to buy a property on our company. You do not know how happy I was when you sent me your video listening to What Makes You Beautiful. I felt like I successfully closed a deal with my client. Not to exaggerate but I really jumped because of happiness after watching your video. It was the first message I checked that morning. Thank you for your effort, so much appreciated. Funny how our conversation starts with your innocence on One Direction until it goes deeper and last longer. Up All Nigh conversations which turned to almost Midnight Memories. Ironic how a Directioner had developed an admiration on someone who dislikes her favorite boys? Just like One Direction’s song, Change My Mind, “Never felt like this before. Are we friends or are we more?” I guess, like Liam’s line on Love You Goodbye, “It's inevitable everything that's good comes to an end. It's impossible to know if after this we can still be friends.”

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I was happy that I made you listen to One Direction. At least I made you appreciate and made you aware that there is a song called, What Makes You Beautiful, not Make You Beautiful. I am happy that you already found your Girl Almighty. Wish me luck on finding my Summer Love. xoxo, Your Directioner friend

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