November 6, 2023 (3:00 PM)

7 min read


Graphic by Earl Dicipulo

As the day proceeds into yet another page, we are constantly greeted with instances that somehow place our composure to the ultimate test. Such scenarios include coming across unsettling questions like “Naunsa ka? Nabuang na ka?” We are also confronted with people who exhaust and misuse terms like delulu, bipolar, love-bombing, gaslighting, or anti-social, causing dilution to the meaning of the words themselves and possibly leaving those who know the true meaning of these words scratching heads.  

Sometimes, these can be taken lightheartedly as jokes by the people involved to laugh about. Admittedly, it can even be used for slight banter between two individuals to create a more cheerful ambiance for teasing. However, for people suffering silently, these words may act as silent knives, breaking them into pieces. 

Over the span of several years, discussions surrounding mental health have been constantly brought up on various platforms, with individuals of all ages being involved.

According to the Philippine Mental Health Association (PMHA) – Davao Chapter Executive Manager, Teofilo S. Limikid, MsPsy, mental health is about a person’s well-being where they can function productively in their everyday activities. Aside from this, Limikid also emphasized that mental health also refers to how a person can effectively manage their stress to get through the day.

In the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) estimated that at least 3.6 million Filipinos are facing mental health problems during the pandemic. Such cases are not only limited to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and mood swings but are actually on a broader spectrum. But despite the numerous advocacies about mental health, most Filipinos still choose to stay silent and solve their problems by themselves.

There are multiple reasons as to why mental health problems exist. However, new reasons continue to surface every day, especially since mental health is a dynamic problem that can be influenced by different things in society. 

When you talk about mental health, it’s a multi-factorial. So meaning to say, you cannot exactly pinpoint that this is the real reason or that’s the real reason because mental health illness is a byproduct of different factors,” the PMHA-Davao Chapter Executive Manager said.  

He also added that some of the reasons for mental health illnesses include genes or biological factors, pressures, and social media. 

However, despite clarifications and definitions of mental health, there are still a lot of misconceptions and stigmas about the said topic. As such, the PMHA-Davao Chapter Executive Manager stated that one of the most commonly known misconceptions associated with mental health is the Cebuano term “Buang” which means crazy in English.

Stigma is a perception. So negative ang perception ng tao in general– sa Filipino culture– about mental health. So meaning to say, when they hear the word “mental health” they would automatically equate that into an illness,” Limikid emphasized.

Such misconceptions are dangerous, for there is a vast possibility for discrimination, exclusion, and different treatment of persons who are suffering from mental health problems. Like a silent and deadly poison, this may plague their mind that mental health is negative in general when it is not.

Peer Consulting Program (PCP) President Tatiana Isabelle Prudente shared that people’s initial thoughts upon hearing the term “mental health” usually revolve around its negative connotations, such as depression, suicide, and anxiety. Moreover, she stated that the general public usually associates it with not being yourself.

‘Cheer up, don’t be sad. Other people have problems too,’ so ganyan. Parang when people hear about mental health, as sad as it sounds, it’s still– may negative pud siya na parang implementation kumbaga,” she added. 

BS Entrepreneurship first-year Rena Cheska Bustamante shared her personal experiences with mental health, where she would often hear that what she is experiencing is just all in her head. She further cited stigma-based comments, such as she is just making everything up, that she is merely overreacting, and to stop for it makes her seem weak.

It’s this dismissive response to mental health where they believe it’s not real or it’s not serious that makes so many students reluctant to share with others what they’re going through,” Bustamante shared. 

In this case, help is difficult because every one of us is afraid of the judgment that we may receive from others. Being boxed and scrutinized by the misconceptions that there is something wrong with us is what makes most people afraid to seek help. Like a small cup of water, they try to keep themselves together until it becomes way too full to the point where they may break and it is something that must be corrected, especially since to be tattled to the parents is a nightmare that most students would not want to risk.

In a report published by the Relief Web, there are five barriers as to why people choose to stay silent especially when it comes to their mental health struggles. Aside from financial costs, the following includes the feelings of being ashamed, the feeling that they might possibly be perceived as crazy and weak, familial concerns about the problem, and other people’s reactions. 

But mental health is not just about these things. According to Prudente, mental health is actually a beautiful balance of both its negative and positive connotations. However, it should be generally associated with one’s mental well-being and being healthy emotionally so that we are more than able to get through our day.

Mental health assistance in the university

In the university, emphasizing one’s mental health is one of their ever-expanding advocacies. 

As per Leah Reparado, Director of the College Wellness and Testing Center (CWTC), the institution is aimed toward numerous interventions to foster flourishing mental health among students, keeping them motivated and mentally unharmed while fulfilling academic responsibilities.

“…we have the basic services, the counseling service, the testing service, we have the career and guidance service, the referral service, ayan marami serbisyo. “

Reparado also laid the other services available in the school, including special programs, such as 5G’s for the scholars, the “Life Always Matters” program, the Pagkalinga program, and the Magis Core program. 

In keeping with the CWTC’s ideals, the institution, in collaboration with the Peer Consulting Program and Life Always Matters Program, held its 2nd Mental Health Festival this October to extend the celebration of World Mental Health Month with the theme Thriving Together: Nurturing Resilience and Healthy Connections for Mental Health. Various organizations, agencies, and offices from Davao City, including Autism Society Philippines Davao, Body-Mind-Spirit Synch Health & Wellness Consultancy Services, City Social Welfare and Development Office, and others, participated in the event.

To mend is to break. Reminding society of the importance of mental health is organically bypassing the long-regarded sensitive topic of why there is a deep-rooted connotation—stigma—in it. A stigma that continues to blur out the minds of people in ways beyond anticipation. It is not tomorrow or in the coming days that we pave the way for mental health discussions to be considered normal; it is today that we regard it as a critical societal issue and be allowed to withdraw its misused connotations. 

Revoking the long-knit stigmas of mental health will undoubtedly take time but will not take a decade to undergo once constantly mended and managed. With mental health services as the crucial source of healing and comfort for those in need of mental health assistance, ensuring the efficacy of enhancement facilities and the exigency to bridge the gap for stigmas is a paramount step in need of application. Focusing on adequate funding and availability while also actively producing trained and effective mental health specialists is also necessary, starting from smaller communities to larger ones, from our homes, schools, and workplaces, and even in areas where mental health care services are underutilized.

End the silence of the gagged!

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