Let me tell you a mental health story. There was a guy in his early 20s who was devastated that his girlfriend broke up with him he decided to kill himself, so he drank an entire bottle of muriatic acid.
Fortunately for him, someone found him in the nick of time and rushed him to the emergency department.
The ending was that he had to have a tube inserted into his throat because it got completely burned and he wasn’t able to breathe on his own anymore.
The sad ending, to my mind, highlights the need to promote and protect mental health for all.
Raising awareness about mental health
I remembered that aforementioned story at the media discussion Upjohn Philippines organized last Thursday to raise awareness about mental health and break the stigma surrounding the topic.
In the Philippines, 3.3 million people suffer from depression and another 3.1 million suffer from anxiety disorders (World Health Organization, 2017). The organization also reported that there were also 2558 reported suicides last 2012 (2019).
Beyond the numbers are individuals who are struggling, suffering and seeking for help. As the story above illustrates, it is crucial for information to be disseminated on how one can adopt healthy ways to cope with daily stresses as well as life’s inevitable challenges. Preventing the issue is always better than curing it.
Coping the right way
That was the premise of the question I posed to the panelists last week: “If you’re acutely distressed, what positive coping mechanisms should you adopt? People sometimes choose harmful actions just to numb the pain.”
Janna Pulido of the advocacy group #MentalHealthPH shares that in her talks with call center agents, they mention the importance of having hobbies you like that uplift your mood such as exercising and hiking. Spending time with nature has been proven to help relieve stress and anxiety.
Fellow advocate Riyan Portuguez, meanwhile, encourages everyone to look for their strengths. “Your strength is your capital,” she says. “It will help you figure out what adaptive coping mechanisms you can employ.” She also encourages regular self-care and finding the right social support to lean on to.
Dr. Robert Buenaventura, Board Secretary at the Philippine Psychiatric Association, offers nuggets of wisdom, too. He particularly emphasizes the importance of self-awareness.
“If you are self-aware, then you know if you’re already in the process of being stressed,” he says. Having a great degree of self-knowledge, he adds, equips you with the strategies you need to then effectively cope with that stress. It prevents your body and mind’s response to it from worsening.
“A degree of introspection is necessary. Self-awareness is key,” Dr. Buenaventura adds.
Reach out to others
Speaking about social support, #MentalHealthPH hosts online and non-judgmental discussions on Twitter every 10th, 20th and 30th of the month. Just follow and interact using the hashtag #usaptayo if you feel the need to share and hear stories from others. The National Center for Mental Health also has free and confidential hotlines for those in need of someone to talk to: 0917 899 USAP (8727) and 989 USAP (8727).
Reach out to others. Let’s break the stigma on mental health by talking more openly about it.
Riyan Portuguez and Janna Pulido of the advocacy group #MentalHealthPH.
Dr. Robert Buenaventura, Board Secretary at the Philippine Psychiatric Association and visiting consultant at the Department of Psychiatry of the UERM Memorial Medical Center.
World Health Organization. Depression and Other Common Mental Disorders: Global Health Estimates. 2017. Geneva, Switzerland.
World Health Organization. WHO Philippines lauds DoH project to support people in mental, emotional crisis. Available at: http://www.wpro.who.int/philippines/mediacentre/features/doh_project_support_people_in_mental_crisis/en/. Accessed on: 17 October 2019.