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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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Serene Fae A day ago

"The paradoxical idea of attaining a happier life and how to withstand these beliefs."

The Revolting Truth About Happiness by Theserenefae

If people ask you about your vision of a happier life we automatically envision ourselves having more money, true love, a better job, Instagram-worthy vacations, etc. But let me break this to you this, According to Dr. Laurie Santos, Professor of Psychology at Yale University and the voice behind The Happiness Lab podcast, "Most of the goals we think would make us happy do not really make us happy." And why is that? Simple, being happy is all in our minds. The human mind ploys us with these lenses on how we envision ourselves and our lives to be happy. The perception of "having" or "gaining" is the exact opposite of what will truly make our lives better. So how can we really be "happy"?

• Seek happiness inside you. This is a quintessential reason for our vision of happiness: misconceptions about having a lot of money would make me happy; owning this and that would make me happy; entering a relationship would make me happy. This is not the case, if you want to be truly happy with your relationship, you have to be already happy on your own. If you want satisfaction from others, you have to be satisfied with yourself. And so on.

• Fill that hole righteously We all have that tiny hole inside our hearts, tampering it with temporary band-aids. Fill this hole with purpose. Have you ever heard about The Three "M's"— Master, Mission, and Mate? Define who will be your Master, is it God? If that's so, your Mission could be following his words and will. Mate would be the last for they will be the best companion to fulfill your mission. Now hear me out, it is important to do this accordingly. We often times jumble it or invert it which can lead to failures.

• Give gifts to others. The wonderful grace in giving. There’s nothing like the rush of pure joy when you get a chance to give. However, this may not be something that we're used to. But apparently, openhandedness is our soul's true shape. As Eugene Peterson put it, "Giving is what we do best. It is the air into which we were born." This doesn't necessarily mean we have to give away our stuff but we can also present love, kindness, gratefulness, etc. in our own simplest ways to anyone such as giving time, encouragement, helping hand, or even forgiveness. Try giving and you'll receive inconceivable gifts in return.

• Savor moments. Savoring deeply intensifies our positive emotions while doing something that we love the most by simply stepping outside of the experience to review and appreciate the moment. You can practice this by having a delicious meal, reading a good book, or any activity that you enjoy and love. It can also be enhanced by sharing these experiences with others, appreciating such amazing moments, or staying present the entire time.

• Choose to Love Deeper Today's society relentlessly pressures all of us to have this "perfect" lifestyle such as pursuing careers that drain you, finding value through virtual world and purchases, letting achievements become your whole identity, and yet after all that you still feel empty and failure inside. Consumption is just skin deep—a shallow perception of happiness. Deep life brings the best out of us and others. It is about nourishing what you already have, focusing on the relationships than material wealth, becoming vulnerable at times, and being self-aware.

• Understand that Sufferings and Pain are part of Human Being. Always remember that loneliness and sufferings are inevitable. That is completely how life goes. You may be happy for a moment or a month but sooner or later great tribulation will start to kick in. Combat despair with graciousness. Count all the blessings that you have (and will have in near future, claim it!) by writing it down on a piece of paper or typing on your phone. Viola! an instant boost for happiness. We all know the fact that this superficial happiness won't work, but why do I keep on wanting? I already have all this wisdom about how to be happy for ages, but why can't I apply it to my own life?

First, you have to understand that simply knowing doesn't change your behavior. Care to realize that all the tips that I have mentioned are all verbs? Because at the end of the day, it is all about how you choose to be happy and initiate actions towards success. Know, reflect, visualize, believe, and do something about it. All of these are Actions! This is the secret of all the happiest and most influential people in the world—actions. Furthermore, do know that some of these tips do not work instantly most of the time. It requires a lot of time, motivation, consistency, and effort. I do know it's easier said than done. Take each of them slowly, one step at a time.

If it wasn’t for pain, I wouldn’t be alive. It may sound contradictory, but it’s true. Pain reminds me that I can feel, along with other emotions. Pain reminds me that I can heal, just like how I did in the past. Pain reminds me that I am strong and I can do better. It reminds me that life can be bitter, and it is up to us to make it a little sweeter (or saltier, depending on what the person wants).

With this epiphany, I take pain in a positive light. It’s normal that it can break me and make me want to stay in bed all day, but having someone or something remind me that there is hope is enough. It’s normal that I cry my heart out, but it’s important to remember that there’s a calm after the storm. If it wasn’t for pain, I wouldn’t be who I am now. It has shaped me and how I look at things. It has changed the way I approach circumstances that can challenge me and my beliefs.

Pain, back then, made me cower in the dark. Pain used to be my biggest fear, and I used to do my best to avoid pain. However, I realized that avoiding pain is like avoiding life. Because of how I wanted to protect myself, I closed myself off to people and opportunities. I used to tell myself that “this will end badly”, or “this is going to hurt in the end”. I always focused on how much pain I might endure in the end that I forgot to enjoy the process.

It’s inevitable, you see? Endings, most of the time, may hurt. It’s natural for us to grow attached to someone or something, and their disappearance might bring us a lot of pain. However, one should always remember that the pain is a reminder of how close you became, how many memories you had. If it wasn’t for pain, life would be pointless. If it wasn’t for pain, we would be nothing.

margaux marie A day ago
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