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Dr. RJ Naguit: We Can’t Force People to Be Okay

When RJ Naguit decided to become a doctor, he wanted to fulfill, not a personal dream, but the much bigger goal of improving the country’s public health system. While working with the Alliance for Improving Health Outcomes which allowed him to work closely with PhilHealth and for the current health information system, Dr. Naguit joined the Philippine Society of Public Health Physicians, where he learned the many paths a doctor could take. “I discovered that there were a lot of doctors working outside the health system. Some of them entered government, while others took their masters here or abroad. It reassured that there’s no one direction toward public health. That’s why I’m forging my own path by focusing on community development and public health.”



At present, Dr. Naguit is the national chairman of the Youth for Mental Health Coalition, Inc., a driving force behind the Philippine Mental Health Law enacted in 2018 after 20 years of lobbying from psychiatrists and other professionals. While working with senators, Dr. Naguit proposed bills on various issues such as nutrition and teenage pregnancy, but mental health remained close to his heart. “When I was in high school, I received a suicide note from a loved one. That feeling of frustration and helplessness of not knowing how to respond to such a situation is something I don’t want other people to go through.” His advocacy was strengthened when his co-founder died by suicide before the law was formalized. “Mental health became more than just policy work; it was something near to us as young people.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the 15 to 29 age group is the most vulnerable to mental health issues. In fact, mental health-related deaths rank second in the cause of fatalities for this group of young people. Dr. Naguit believes that the pandemic is exacerbating this situation. “Biological and psychological factors are not the only factors that affect our mental well-being. Social factors also come into play. We’re collectively grieving an ambiguous loss—things and people we’ve lost without certainty and closure. Grieving patterns are altered because of COVID-19. We can’t attend wakes and seek psycho-social support because of social distancing. Online meetings are not enough to substitute face-to-face support.”

On October 14, Dr. Naguit, psychiatrist Dr. Rowalt Alibudbud and yoga teacher Ananya Lea Thomas will share their knowledge in Panahon TV’s webinar, Peace of Mind during the Pandemic. “It’s not a light topic, especially now that people might be experiencing different forms of distress. We can’t force people to be okay if the situation is not. When we talk about finding peace, we should start with coming to terms with the current situation and acknowledging our feelings.” At the same time, Dr. Naguit believes in being pro-active in addressing the sources of our distress. “We can’t just cope and do self-care. The social factors need to be addressed. If the COVID-19 cases continue to rise, and people are losing their jobs and going hungry, you can’t expect people to smile all the time.”

At the end of the webinar, Dr. Naguit hopes that participants will feel validated.  “Emotions should not be kept under lock and key. Acknowledging our emotions is acknowledging our common humanity.”


To register for the webinar, click here: https://panahon.tv/webinar/index.php