Are you okay? No, really, are you okay?
Most of the time, the honest answer feels uneasy. We say we're fine when we're not, because our society sees this as a sign of weakness. Now more than ever, we need to talk about Mental Health Awareness in the Philippines.
The current state of Mental Health Awareness in the Philippines
Mental Health Awareness means caring for your emotional, psychological, and mental well-being. It is just as important as your physical health. That's why you must take care of your mental health and address the problems you're having.
However, several factors hinder you from taking care of your mental health. The worst enemy for the movement is stigma. There is a lack of mental health awareness in the Philippines. Mental illness is taboo in Asian culture. Most Asian parents want us to stiffen up with our heads held high, disregarding the sadness and anxiety we may feel.
Add to this the strong machismo in our culture. They teach men that crying is a sign of weakness, that they should "man up",and that only women cry because they're "naturally weak". This belief about mental health for all is harmful, ignoring every person’s unique emotional needs.
While there are recent movements and initiatives to champion Mental Health, the mass media’s previous portrayal of people with mental health problems is often problematic. They portrayed these characters as villains on television, even brushing them off as "crazy" or "psychos". Because of the stigma around mental health, getting the help you need was a challenge for countless Filipinos.
Teaching Mental Health Awareness in Schools and Workplace
With Republic Act no. 11036, or the Mental Health Act of 2017, Filipinos young and old now have a fighting chance to get the needed support towards a more compassionate and better understanding of mental health. Institutions like schools, workplaces, and communities will now benefit from the integrated national mental health care system to protect the emotional and mental well-being of the people.
Apart from mental health awareness seminars, media representation also plays a great role in teaching mental health awareness in schools. Shows like the Netflix Korean Drama 'It's Okay Not to Be Okay' and animated films like Pixar’s ‘Inside Out’ are just some of the materials that educators can now utilize in teaching the youth about mental health. It’s media like these, along with courses on personality development and values education, that can help the youth best understand themselves and become more compassionate, progressive individuals in the future.
The COVID-19 Pandemic encouraged more conversations around mental health. Because of lockdowns, people are physically and emotionally isolated from other people. There is also the loss of livelihoods because of business struggles and unemployment. That is why we need more than ever to talk about our mental health during this pandemic.
How do we break the stigma?
Support groups are also crucial so that people with mental illness will know that they're not alone, that there are people who are experiencing the same thing that is happening to them. People would find others who would listen to what they're feeling, and this is a first step in getting the treatment they need.
Healing is one of the major effects of mental health awareness. There is no shame in having mental health issues, and there certainly isn’t shame in seeking support. The more we view mental health wellness as something we owe to ourselves and to others, the closer we are in healing as a society.
Sources: who.int, springer.com, Doh.gov.ph, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, bworldonline.com image sources: PxFuel, Gabbykawaii07 and Chinchu.c from Wikimedia Commons, rawpixel.com from PxHere, Piqsels