Events, Lifestyle, Speak

Mental health is among the greatest concerns we should have

“Health is wealth”. 

That saying resounds in a very special way in this time of the pandemic. Safety measures prevent us from getting sick, and social distancing ensures us that the chances of catching the virus diminish. 

All that serves a worthy purpose. However, another type of health presents itself in a particularly urgent way: that of mental health, and the vital need to spread its awareness. Because of the virus measures, though definitely very essential in keeping transmissions at bay, people have been isolated from one another. Many will say that they’ve felt incredible loneliness and isolation.

Even the happiest of personalities see very gloomy days. Care and compassion must always be shown to them. Image from Virtual Pinoy

Not all disabilities are visible, even the happiest people get sad

‘ASEAN Mental Health Summit 2020’, a youth-led event last October 29-31, 2020, talked about the importance of mental health. Various speakers gave talks. 

Among them, Jeric Manalili, a psychologist from the Philippines, said: “Whether you are a celebrity, a leader, a scientist, an author, or an artist, anyone can get a mental illness… In fact, especially right now that we are facing COVID-19, medical frontliners like nurses, doctors, and allied medical health professionals were suffering, were battling from a mental health difficulty.”

According to Manalili, a study from The Journal of the American Medical Association supported this. It surveyed people in the medical professions, and the results showed that 50% experienced symptoms of depression, 45% experienced anxiety, 34% had insomnia, and a whopping 71.5% had psychological distress. 

Another guest speaker from the Philippines, Jan Aclao, who currently takes up his Masters in Clinical Psychology, spoke of his own experience in relation to psychology.

For him, the pandemic has been tough, and online classes have been a challenge. He pointed out that when you ask people how they are, often, their answers will be “I’m fine, thank you. But that’s not the reality,” he said.

All of these point to the importance of mental health. It’s not just about telling people to “cheer up!” Had it been that easy, we wouldn’t need experts like psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors. But as it turns out, we do need the expertise of those people.

Instead of discriminating, we must accompany and be with those who are going through a difficult time. Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Everyone comes from a particular context

Another key feature of the mental health summit included the use of break out rooms. Though the main speakers of the first two days hailed from the Philippines, participants got the chance to engage in conversation with their fellow countrymen through break out rooms.

There, they spoke about the topic of mental health from their own perspective. After all, not everyone experiences the same situation, and each context is unique. The tedious fight against COVID-19 in Thailand, for example, has been much better than when it first started; fewer cases have been reported since the months of March and April. So, what may be an issue there may not necessarily be an issue somewhere else.

This reality re-exerts the need to be aware of the context from which the other is coming from; empathy in mental health is important.


Caring for mental health

So, how can mental health be cared for? Seeking professional help is crucial, Manalili said. Seeking help is a great, brave, and wonderful first step to healing. 

Second, support must be shown and given to people who are undergoing this difficult challenge. Discrimination against them and telling them to simply “cheer up” in no way helps. 

Instead, we must be with them in this challenging time. Although we can never fully put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, we can still empathize with them and show them compassion. 

“I’d like you to be a ‘mental health buddy’ to your friend, to your family, to the significant person around you. Be a mental health buddy. Please empower them! Please support them,” Manalili called all the participants to do.


The author of this article: 

An accomplished young Chinese Filipino writer and media personality, Aaron S. Medina is associated with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the Ateneo de Manila University Chinese Studies Program, the Philippine Association for Chinese Studies, and CHiNOY TV. He has a passion for truth, justice, and Pokémon, too! Follow him on Facebook:

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