It has been said many times, and we cannot stress it further: Mental health is a serious matter, and we should be talking about it, especially since we do not have a formal law giving rights to those afflicted with mental illness.
A few celebrities, including Ian Veneracion, Jasmine Curtis-Smith, Sam YG, Agot Isidro, and Angel Aquino, have lobbied for the passage of a mental health bill:
Why should you care about mental health? Because it is an issue bigger than how we perceive it to be. It can affect anyone, regardless of their stature in life.
You might ask: To what extent can we consider a person to be suffering from a mental disorder? Most would think that being bipolar, schizophrenic, and having anxiety attacks are only what should be considered as mental disorders, given the need for anti-anxiety, antipsychotic, and antidepressant drugs to treat them.
Ever encountered someone who says they feel sad and lonely? Never tell them things like “Emo ka na naman,”, “You don’t look sad,” or “Shake it off!," as these instances can already be signs of depression, or indications that a person is suffering from a mental health disorder. Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who filed a bill for a Mental Health Law, notes that one out of five Filipinos suffer from a mental or psychiatric disorder. In addition, unaddressed mental health issues can lead to suicide, in which WHO data shows that around seven Filipinos commit suicide everyday.
Sen. Hontiveros' Mental Health bill aims to establish a comprehensive mental health care system in the Philippines and protect the rights of people who have psychiartic, neurological, and psychosocial health needs (you may read a copy of the bill here).
As we await for the passage of the bill, what can we do in the meantime, you ask? Here are simple things we can do to raise mental health awareness:
1. Stop the stigma. As Sen. Hontiveros points out, we should avoid posting remarks derogatory to a person’s mental health, or belittling their emotions on social media.
2. Support loved ones dealing with such issues. Mental health problems become bigger as those afflicted by it oftentimes choose to keep it to themselves (remember the case of Nonie Buencamino’s daughter Julia last year, or that of Helena Belmonte in 2014?). Should you notice your loved ones showing signs of depression, anxiety, and the like, talk to them and comfort them. Having someone listen and talk about their issues is one way to make them feel at ease.
3. Be more open in talking about mental health. To make people aware of mental health issues, we should not be ashamed to discuss it albeit with necessary care and compassion. After all, in order to make people aware of the importance of mental health, everyone should be openly talking about it and not treat it as a taboo topic.
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Illustration by Jana Jimenez