During the 1988 Seoul Olympics, the Philippines won its first Olympic medal through bowling. But the achievement was not included in the medal tally because bowling was considered a demonstration sport. Nevertheless, the whole country celebrated the win of Arianne Cerdeña, who was quoted on television saying, “It’s the only sport wherein we Filipinos could win medals.”
Thirty-three years later at the recently-concluded Tokyo Olympics, another Filipina athlete made history—this time, not in the bowling category. When Hidilyn Diaz triumphantly lifted 127 kilograms in the clean and jerk category, she succeeded in two things: breaking an Olympic record, and most important of all, snagging the country’s first official Olympic gold medal.
But what made this victory happen? Hidilyn, who wore the Miraculous Medal of the Blessed Mother around her neck throughout the competition, has always been quick to acknowledge not only divine guidance but also the support of Team HD (Team Hidilyn Diaz). The team is composed of Head Coach Gao Kaiwen, Strength and Conditioning Coach Julius Naranjo, Sports Nutritionist Jeaneth Aro, and Sports Psychologist Karen Katrina Trinidad.
To learn the important role of mental training in Hidilyn’s win, Panahon TV interviewed Dr. Trinidad, who is also a consultant in the Sports Psychology Unit of the Philippine Sports Commission.
Team HD (from L-R: Naranjo, Aro, Diaz, Trinidad, Gao Kaiwen)
Photo from Hidilyn Diaz’s Facebook Page
Sports Psychology 101
With today’s increased awareness on mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia, clinical psychologists are the often-mentioned profession in the psychology sector. But Dr. Trinidad explained the need for sports psychologists. “Athletes are also people. They have to care for their mental health. They are prone to anxiety especially when they compete. So, they should prepare not only their bodies but also the psychological aspect.”
Like physical skills, mental skills take time to develop. This is why Dr. Trinidad encourages athletes to consult with a sports psychologist before a competition.
Even before the 2016 Rio Olympics, Hidilyn had been availing of the PSC’s psychological services. But at the time, the powerlifting athlete’s sessions weren’t as regular. “She would just go visit the unit or office every once and a while. But after she got the silver medal in Rio, she went back to the office. She asked me, ‘Doc, mag-Olympics pa kaya ako?’ So I countered, ‘Do you think kaya mo pa ba?’ Because when we talk about the Olympics, we’re talking about four years of preparation.”
According to Dr. Trinidad, Hidilyn initially confided that she couldn’t imagine herself training every day for four years. The sports psychologist then advised Hidilyn to do something else besides training. Upon learning that Hidilyn wanted to finish college, Dr. Trinidad helped her look for a school.
The then silver medalist took up business management at De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde in 2017. However, she had to pause her studies to focus on her Olympic training. Still, Dr. Trinidad said that studying made a positive impact on Hidilyn. “Because she was studying, those four years flew by. She was also happy because she was able to socialize outside the sport. Studying developed her cognitive thinking and time management skills.”
Hidilyn biting her gold medal (photo from Hidilyn Diaz’s Facebook Page)
Hidilyn’s Psychological Training
Team HD was formed sometime in 2018. But before that, Hidilyn had already been training under the experts. Team HD was formally formed prior to the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia. In that competition, Hidilyn took home her first gold. Ever since, Team HD has accompanied the weightlifting champ in all her games.
To facilitate Hidilyn’s mental health, Dr. Trinidad advised her the following:
- “Remember your why.” Because of the pandemic, the Tokyo Olympics was either going to be postponed or canceled. This uncertainty wreaked havoc on Hidilyn’s well-being. “Her anxiety level was high at the time, so we had to regulate it,” Dr. Trinidad said. “She had to always go back to ‘why’. Why is she doing this?” Reminding herself of her original motivation pushed Hidilyn to continue training.
- Improve confidence level. “You gain confidence through training, experience and feedback,” Dr. Trinidad stated. Days before the Olympic finals, Dr. Trinidad reminded Hidilyn of her long experience in the sport. Hidilyn, who began weightlifting at 11 years old, is now 30 years old. “I told her that she’s already an expert in the field, so she should be confident. Lifting the barbell is something she can do automatically.” Because Hidilyn was the oldest among the weightlifting participants, people were questioning if she would succeed. Dr. Trinidad waved away this doubt. “No one can limit you. As long as you like what you’re doing, you can be successful.”
- Engage in self-talk. To drive home the weightlifting technique of “one motion, chest out”, during the finals, Hidilyn was often seen mouthing the phrase like a mantra. “It’s a way to remind herself of what she should do. In weightlifting, one moment or one second of doubt can already interfere with your performance. So, we really thought of the best self-talk that would be effective for her,” shared Dr. Trinidad.
- Do mental imagery. Before Hidilyn competed, her coaches would make her go up the podium so she can familiarize herself with the environment. Before the Olympic finals, Team HD arrived ahead of Hidilyn’s competitors. “We requested the officials to let Hidilyn go up the stage. Even if it was only for a few minutes, she was able to get a feel of her environment,” recounted Dr. Trinidad.
Hidilyn training in Melaka, Malaysia (photo from Hidilyn Diaz’s Facebook Page)
Training in Malaysia
Before the Olympics, Hidilyn stayed in Malaysia throughout the pandemic. Dr. Trinidad recalled how Hidilyn was filled with self-doubt back then. “She’d call us one by one via Zoom to ask if we were going to stick with her. We assured her that whether the Olympics would push through or not, we were going to support her.”
Dr. Trinidad believes that training in Malaysia was good for Hidilyn. “It was a provincial environment, something she was used to. It’s not in a city setting, so she was able to relax and stay away from distractions. Hidilyn is someone who cannot say no. If she stayed in Manila, she would probably have many commitments and wouldn’t able to focus.”
To push Hidilyn’s limits, Dr. Trinidad advised her to improve her performance by 1% every day. “Her success is well-deserved because it’s a product of hard word, determination and motivation. She did it not only for herself but also for the country.”
Science and Sports
After Hidilyn’s victory in addition to the 2 silver and 1 bronze medals the country collected from the Olympics, Dr. Trinidad hopes that more athletic organizations would be open to scientific training. “Sports today is already scientific. It’s something measurable. Also, mental health should be considered because the more athletes compete, the more pressure they experience. If they don’t care for their well-being, they will eventually burn out. We’re going to lose good athletes along the way.”
Being mentally healthy means being able to adjust to new environments, and enjoying a sense of balance. “At the end of the day, the body and mind get exhausted. Our approach should be holistic—physical, psychological and mental.”
But what’s next for Hidilyn? Dr. Trinidad said that Hidilyn is still unsure, because she was focused solely on the Olympics. But whatever the champion decides, Dr. Trinidad’s advice remains timeless. “I told her that with this pandemic, life is short. It’s ok if you want to compete as long as you enjoy what you’re doing. You have to think for yourself, not for other people. Because at the end of the day, it’s your life.”
Hidilyn with Team HD after her win (photo from Hidilyn Diaz’s Facebook Page)
We cannot deny that social media plays a huge role in our lives more so during this pandemic. In the absence of face-to-face interaction, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter provide safe and convenient ways for us to connect with family, friends and even work colleagues. Social media updates us on the events in each other’s lives without having to initiate contact and ask “How are you?” Such information is freely shared and available through a mere tap of a finger.
But too much of a good thing may lead to problems. Though virtual interaction may be beneficial to our mental health during the pandemic, mindless scrolling of social media feeds can lead to sadness, loneliness and even exhaustion. Because mobility and activities are currently limited, such emotions may push us to simply pick up the smartphone and indulge in another round of scrolling. To better care for our mental health, we need to break this cycle.
What is social media detoxification?
According to Itin Lachica-Umali, a Psychology professor at the Colegio De San Lorenzo, social media detox is a component of digital media detox. This involves refraining from or minimizing the use of television, and other “technology vices” in favor of face-to-face connection.
Though social media is convenient, the constant distraction it offers may keep us from processing our own experiences. Because the pandemic is unforeseen, Psychologist Roselle Teodosio, owner of IntegraVita Wellness Center, believes that we must be allowed to grieve. “There is an added pressure, most especially from social media, to make the most out of the situation, kind of like making lemonade out of lemons. This can make people more frustrated with themselves, when they can’t seem to find their own “niche.” Also, people are afraid to show their fear, lest they be labeled as negative or a pessimist. But it is actually okay to feel not okay, to admit that one feels fear, that one is afraid, that one cannot function well since there is really an uncertainty during this time. It is also very natural to grieve. Grief would mean an end to something, not just death of a person. It is an end to a friendship, an end to a relationship, an end to a dream and most of all, an end to a lifestyle, a life one had known.”
Umali agrees that social media may push you to compare yourself with others. “This is the root of unhappiness,” she says. “We need to detoxify from social media so we can pause and process things in our own time.”
When do you need a social media detox?
If you experience any of the of the following, you may need to take a break from your computer or phone:
- Spending most of your waking hours on the internet. Experts recommend a maximum of 30 minutes spent on social media daily. According to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, this can lead to better health outcomes.
- Not being able to connect face-to-face. The internet should enhance our lives, and not take the place of our reality. If you text or chat in the virtual realm more often than communicating with the family members you live with, then it’s time to disconnect for a while. Real-life interaction boosts your social skills and mental health.
- Not being able to function without social media. Umali shares, “When the person acts as if the phone is an extension of his hands, and he brings it wherever he goes—that is already too much of usage. We are all at risk for social media addiction. Social media should bring out the better versions of ourselves, not our lesser versions.”
Here are some steps for social media detox:
- Have a detox buddy.
- Delete social media apps on your phone.
- Plan new morning and bedtime routines that do not involve your phone.
- Use technology only for reasons other than scrolling through social media.
- Spend more time observing the world around you.
- Converse more with the people in your household.
When you do a social media detox, you may observe these benefits:
- Self-esteem improvement. With more time in your hands, you will be able to process your emotions and experiences more effectively. As a result, you can better gauge the steps you need to take to improve your life. “There’s clarity because you got rid of the stimuli. You are able to think properly, and instead of being just reactionary, you can be proactive,” says Umali.
- Reduced anxiety. “Because of the many things you hear in social media, especially about the pandemic, you tend to get more anxious,” warns Umali. “Should you get vaccinated or not? Even the video of the ladies who took all the eggs from the community pantry became viral, and were bashed. This produced anxiety on their part, so we also need to control our actions so they won’t affect the mental health of others.”
- Increased interaction with the people around you. Though real-life interaction with people outside our household is not recommended during this time, Umali advises to communicate regularly with those around you. “Face-to-face interaction is still better than virtual interaction.”
- Being grateful for what you have. Disconnecting from social media keeps you from comparing yourself with others. It also abates the fear of missing out. Appreciate your blessings and cultivate a positive mindset.
According to Umali, the responsible use of social media begins with thinking before clicking. Carefully think about your comment before posting it. Will it harm other people? What does it say about you as a person? Whatever you put on social media reflects your values and beliefs. Be a responsible user—and this includes limiting your time on social media in order to be healthier.
Have you ever experienced repeatedly thinking about possible negative consequences of an action you haven’t done? How about being unproductive because of the countless thoughts running through your head? If you have, don’t worry because you’re not alone. I have experienced them, too.
I remember when I had to do an impromptu speech for class, and I kept thinking of what might possibly go wrong – such as not knowing what to say, not being familiar with the given topic, or experiencing mental block in the middle of the speech.
Overthinking can get exhausting, so to better deal with it, I had a chat with Dr. Raymond John S. Naguit, founder and national chairperson of the Youth for Mental Health Coalition, Inc.
What is overthinking?
Dr. Naguit describes overthinking as a phenomenon wherein we tend to get ahead of an action or an event before we do or experience it. Rumination is rooted in overthinking about the past, while anxiety involves overthinking about the future. Sadness, guilt and anxiety are normal and valid, but when these emotions hinder our growth and development, then we may have to consider a formal diagnosis.
Dr. Naguit explains that though overthinking in itself is not a clinical disorder, it can be a symptom of a mental disorder. He cited some signs when we’ve fallen into the pit of overthinking:
When we don’t live in the present moment
Overthinking takes away our focus on the here and now because we are too busy projecting into the future or digging into the past. I’ve noticed this in myself. Sometimes, I don’t even notice how my food tastes like because I keep thinking about the things I need to do. Scenarios like this make me question why I overthink since it prevents me from enjoying the little things.
When it affects our work
Though thinking can help us mentally organize our to-do list, it becomes a concern when it keeps us from doing the very things we think about.
When it affects our relationships
Overthinking about what people will think or how they will respond to our actions may keep us from taking risks and forming healthy relationships.
When it causes deviant behavior
Dr. Naguit states that this is when we become “overly cautious about doing a certain action or going to a certain place.” This can sometimes contribute to the stress that we experience, which may lead to mental disorders which, Dr. Naguit assures, is not an immediate effect of overthinking.
But if negative thoughts are repetitive, Dr. Naguit points out that it is possible to develop an anxiety disorder from overthinking. If we no longer have control over our emotions, feelings, or thoughts, it is best to seek the help of a professional.
Why do we overthink?
Dr. Naguit explains that overthinking is sometimes due to the “many stimuli that we’re faced with.” An example is the COVID-19 pandemic, which has given rise to health risks, political issues, and economic concerns. Too much stimuli can be overwhelming because they exceed our capacity to cope with different stress points. This can contribute to overthinking since we find it difficult to banish these thoughts.
Dr. Naguit says it is normal for us to sometimes overthink, especially if we have many concerns or tasks. He adds that our reactions to a current situation are sometimes a result of previous experiences. Someone who had been bullied in school may approach going to school with caution and anxiety.
To manage overthinking, Dr. Naguit suggests the following steps:
Express our feelings.
Whether we’re experiencing heavy feelings or bothersome thoughts, we need to release them. Dr. Naguit suggests exorcising emotions on paper; some have “worry journals” that house their thoughts. We can also share our concerns, no matter how irrational, with trusted friends. Sometimes it just takes somebody to tell us that everything will be okay to make us feel better.
Divert our attention.
Dr. Naguit states there are times when we simply cannot control what goes into our minds. However, we can look for a positive diversion. We can try exposing ourselves to another source of stimulus – such as making art, watching television, or exercising.
Understand our sphere of influence.
How do we differentiate the things we can control from those we cannot? Dr. Naguit advises to map out our sphere of influence. For example, instead of stressing over the number of COVID-19 cases every day, it is better to focus on wearing our masks and washing our hands because these are the things we can control. Doing so will not make us feel so helpless and will give us a sense of agency.
Mindfulness is the concept of being aware of the present moment. Because overthinking – or anxiety – is sometimes caused by our fears for the future, the idea is “to reorient [our] attention back to the present moment,” says Dr. Naguit. Mindfulness-based practices like meditation and mindful eating are deliberate and help maximize our five senses to “reorient [ourselves] to the present moment or to the current environment.”
Dr. Naguit adds that part of mindfulness is accepting that we cannot control our thoughts. Thoughts will inevitably enter our minds, and the more we try to control them or shield them, the more stressed we get. He advises to simply recognize and acknowledge our thoughts, and allow them to flow. Then take deep breaths and one by one, let them go.
Physically release our stress.
Some psychologists recommend using stress balls as a means for physical release. Dr. Naguit adds that one of the things he teaches is “progressive muscle relaxation,” wherein patients “cyclically flex and relax [their] muscles.”
Get enough rest and sleep.
Rest is also an important part of mental health intervention. Dr. Naguit explains that when we don’t get enough sleep, we become irritable and tend to conflate things, which then make us overthink. Interventions for physical wellness also contribute to our mental well-being.
When we are doing something, it is best to have our full attention on the task at hand so we can perform our best. However, there are times when certain thoughts pop-up in our minds– and this is perfectly normal. You don’t have to overthink overthinking!
Overthinking is definitely something I can live without. And that impromptu speech I mentioned in the beginning— the one I’d been so worried about? It turned out fine! I knew just what to say about the topic and I finished the speech without a problem.
We don’t have to worry so much or about things because often, they turn out fine in the end. If not, then that’s fine, too. We’ll just learn from the experience and improve ourselves.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health condition, know that there are people whom you can talk to. Get in touch with them through these numbers:
National Center for Mental Health Crisis Hotline
UP Diliman Psychosocial Services – Free Online Counseling
Philippine Mental Health Association – Free Online Counseling
PMHA Facebook Messenger
Philippine Psychiatric Association – Free Online Counseling
One night, fifteen years ago, Lea was flipping through the channels on her television, looking for a movie to help her destress from her job as a financial adviser in one of the country’s top insurance companies. Instead, her channel surfing took her to a show on yoga, which kept her glued until the end. Watching the gentle flow of yoga poses helped relieve her stress, which kept her tuning in to the show regularly, until she found herself practicing yoga. “I fell in love with yoga since then. I loved how it had a holistic approach to health, focusing on both physical and mental abilities.”
For ten years, she dabbled with yoga until five years ago when she decided to make it her daily practice. “At that time, I was feeling exhausted and stressed. My body was pleading for a break. I decided to focus on myself.” With her regular yoga practice, Lea discovered a more focused way of thinking, and with this clarity came the realization of what she wanted to do with her life. “Two years ago, I decided to go to Vietnam to undergo training so I could be a yoga teacher. Our yoga class had five teachers, which we called masters. We would start our practice with pranayama, or breathing exercises coupled with meditation. It taught me to focus on my breath and to be still in the present. In the stillness, I could hear what my mind and body were telling me.”
Her six-month training certified Lea as a yoga teacher. Because of the pandemic, Lea holds online yoga classes, not just for Filipinos, but also for friends she made in Vietnam. At the same time, she supports her husband in developing an organic vegetable garden in Rizal. He focuses on growing high-nutrient fruits and vegetables that complement Leah’s yoga practice. Though Lea is living proof of yoga’s ability to help regulate blood pressure, fight insomnia and support the body’s natural healing process, she finds that the most important thing she gained from her practice is mental strengthening. “A weak mind can’t carry a strong body, but a strong mind can carry even the weakest body,” she shares. “A strong mind will keep you stable and grounded. It gives you the power to cope with stress.”
This October 14, Lea will share simple breathing and meditation exercises in Panahon TV’s much-awaited webinar, Peace of Mind during the Pandemic, which also features psychiatrist Dr. Rowalt Alibudbud, and Dr. RJ Naguit, chairman of the Youth for Mental Health Coalition, Inc.
From this webinar, Lea hopes that participants will learn to let go of things they can’t control. “Stress is inevitable, but what’s more important is that you know how to manage it. If you’re on a continuous fight-and-flight mode, you’ll get sick. Gentle yoga helps release the tension with mindful poses. Just by focusing on your breath, you honor your body, allowing acceptance, awareness and letting go. When you do this daily, you develop a calm state of mind. It’s a powerful tool to manage everything that’s happening in the world today.”
To register for the webinar, click here: https://panahon.tv/webinar/index.php
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
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.
Click here for more details: https://bit.ly/35W3ixL
According to the Department of Health (DOH), 1 out of 5 Filipino adult suffers from a mental health disorder. The three most common ones in the country, according to the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH), include specific phobia, alcohol abuse and depression.
Life coach and psychiatrist Dr. Randy Dellosa says that although sadness is normal and temporary, depression affects a person for a longer period of time and is associated with nine major symptoms:
– Sadness, irritability or anxiety
– Loss of motivation or enjoyment
– Changes in sleep pattern
– Changes in appetite
– Changes self-image or self-confidence
– Poor focus
– Low energy
– Thoughts of death or suicide
Different factors, such as genetics, contribute to psychiatric disorders. If both parents have disorders, the chance for their offspring to be diagnosed with a disorder is higher. Another factor is stress, whether mental, emotional, physical or a combination of all.
Hormones can also be the culprit, leading to an imbalance in brain chemicals. Other factors include drugs, alcohol and lack of sleep. In other cases, situational triggers like death in the family, calamity, heartbreak or tragedy can also affect a person’s mind, body and emotions.
Dellosa explained that people tend to be suicidal because of recurring symptoms. Because they don’t know where or how to get help, they feel so hopeless that they want to end their suffering.
Ven, a 27-year-old public school teacher, has been suffering from depression. She isn’t exactly sure when it started, but she thinks it might have been triggered by her parents’ separation when she was 8 years old. Her condition got worse when her grandmother died last year.
“Nitong last year lang, nagkasakit ‘yung lola ko. Sobrang daming gastos tapos tulung-tulong kami sa pagtustos ng gamut. Nagkautang-utang din ako. Tapos ‘yun, parang biglang bumagsak ‘yung buhay ko nung namatay ‘yung lola ko.
Nawala ako sa pagsisimba, talagang kwinestyon ko si Lord kung bakit…ginawa ko naman lahat, nagsimba ako…pero bakit kinuha, parang wala nakong kakampi.” (My grandmother died last year. I was buried in debt because of her medications. I did my best to help her. I went to church and prayed incessantly but God still took her life. I questioned Him. I felt alone and devastated.)
“Yung one time na naglaslas ako, pinakauna sa school. Kasi sobrang stressed na stressed na ako. Lahat kasi ng trabaho parang sa akin inaasa. Kinabukasan, may tinuruan ako na bata, para sa isang contest sa buong probinsya so mas mataas na level. Natalo ‘yung bata. Naglaslas na naman ako sa bahay. Ano na naman ba nagawa ko, mali na naman ba, kasi parang ‘yung expectations nila mula pagkabata ko na laging nananalo, laging nasa taas kaso wala, parang bigla akong bumulusok.” (My first suicide attempt happened in school where I started to cut my wrist because of too much stress at work. The next day, I was feeling extremely down because my student didn’t win the contest. As a teacher, I was blaming myself. I felt I wasn’t good enough.)
Because of depression, Ven has also experienced auditory hallucinations. She heard loud voices saying, “Wala kang kwenta. Wala ka nang silbi!” (You are worthless! You’re good for nothing!) Fear, loneliness and low self-esteem gnawed at her until she committed her fifth suicide attempt. Up to now, the scars are still visible on her wrist.
Easing the pain
To help a person with a psychiatric disorder, here are ways to ease the burden they are carrying:
– Educate yourself by getting involved in different mental health campaigns in the community or institutions
– Lend a listening ear so they can release their emotions and express their selves without judgment. This gives them relief and helps them cope with bad memories.
– If their condition is getting worse, accompany them to a psychiatrist for medication and psychotherapy.
– Encourage them to undergo wellness therapy wherein they can engage in activities that make them feel good mentally, emotionally and physically. Examples are exercise, good food or art therapy like dance, visual arts or singing, which serve as outlets for self-expression.
After Ven’s fifth suicidal attempt, her family finally learned about her condition. Her relatives are now helping her to cope with her illness. Her faith is also redeemed, and Ven now regularly attends mass.
Paiting and writing have also become her outlets. She has penned poetry also published on her blog site. Recently, she was also invited to perform her poems in a benefit gig that aims to promote awareness on mental health through art.
NCMH Chief Bernardino Vicente said mental health is not a priority in the country and is poorly funded. “There is also a lot of stigma attached to mental illness, and the stigma does not end with the patient. Even the mental health providers or psychiatrists are also stigmatized. You’ll often hear, anong trabaho mo, psychiatrist, hindi ka ba nahahawa, (As a psychiatrist, don’t you get infected with mental illnesses?) such remarks like that.”
There are only a few doctors who would want to take up psychiatry. If you compare it to our neighboring countries, like for example Japan, they have about 16, 000 psychiatrists nationwide. In the Philippines, we only have about 600 and what’s bad about it is the inequitable distribution. Most of them are here [in Metro Manila]. Pumunta ka sa probinsya, halos wala kang makikita (There are almost none in the provinces),” he added.
Recently, majority of the House of Representatives members approved the third and final reading of the Comprehensive Mental Health Act or House Bill 6452. It will be signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte, hopefully before the year ends.
The bill gives emphasis on the responsibilities of all concerned government agencies and mental health providers, as well as fund allocation and services that should be accessible to all Filipinos, including those in the rural areas.
Watch our special documentary on Mental Health