October 10 is World Mental Health Day, a commemoration that deserves more attention now during the COVID-19 pandemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that though the Philippines consistently ranks high in the global optimism index, which means that Filipinos are generally hopeful and expect favorable outcomes, the National Center for Mental Health reported an increase in hotline calls about depression from 80 to nearly 400 a month during lockdown.Dr. Rowald Alibudbud, a psychiatrist who handles various cases ranging from normative stress from daily life, to severe mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, confirms this observation. “In my experience during the quarantine and pandemic, there has been an increase in the number of psychiatric consultations, especially for depression and anxiety. Interestingly, stigma remains despite the higher demand at present.”
Dr. Rowalt Alibudbud will be part of Panahon TV’s upcoming webinar, Peace of Mind during the Pandemic.
All over the world, the stigma around mental health is disturbing. The 15 to 29 age group, which, globally, is the most vulnerable to such issues, also has deaths related to mental health as its second leading cause of fatalities. To address these figures, those with mental health challenges should feel safe in sharing their problems without the fear of being ostracized. Instead of shying away from a topic that is generally considered taboo, Dr. Alibudbud decided to specialize in psychiatry. “I’ve always been fascinated with human behavior, the mind and the brain. I thought psychiatry was a good step toward understanding these. Psychiatry is fascinating since it’s a perfect mixture of medical, biological, behavioral and social sciences.”
A diplomate of the Philippine Psychiatric Association, Dr. Alibudbud has had his share of challenging cases. “The most challenging for me are those with family problems that led them to experience some psychiatric symptoms since this requires a lot of coordination with the family. Basically, you address the principal cause—in this case, the family problem.” As to the causes of these mental health issues, Dr. Alibudbud shares that they’re more than just brain chemical balances. “They are also associated with psycho-social factors such as isolation from loved ones and poor self-esteem. Medication is important but psycho-social interventions are also needed. In this regard, it is important to address stigma, discrimination, misconceptions and prejudices regarding mental health.”
Dr. Alibudbud looks forward to sharing more of his knowledge in Panahon TV’s upcoming webinar, Peace of Mind during the Pandemic, on October 14, Wednesday, at 2 p.m. The webinar will also feature Dr. RJ Naguit, chairperson of the Youth for Mental Health Coalition, Inc., and yoga teacher Ananya Lea Thomas.
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