October 10 is Mental Health Day.
I live in the Philippines, and there are three things that people think of when they think of the Philippines (given that they know where it is):
- Oh, beaches!
- Oh, Duterte (insert positive or negative connotation here)
- Oh, resilience.
In several surveys, it was consistently shown that Filipinos are among the happiest people in the world – they can smile even though their houses are drowned in floodwater. They can laugh while playing cards or majhong at someone’s wake. And if all things go to shit, and all hell breaks loose, there isn’t anything that can’t be fixed with a bottle of beer and a bunch of friends.
The truth is that a lot of Filipinos learned to live with it because that’s all they knew: this country is shit for most of the masses and they make what they can of it – squat in other people’s property, live as underpaid and overworked workers, and have their children beg on the streets if that’s what it means to survive.
Not Everything is Hearts and Roses
On the other side of the spectrum, despite photos of toothy grins in the middle of floods, at least SEVEN Filipinos commit suicide every day. Many more go through different sorts of mental illness. And because the Filipinos believe in living in hell most of the time anyway, they believe that Mental Health is a thing of the imagination.
“Ang drama mo bes, magtigil ka nga.”
“Ay, as if ang laki ng problema mo, arte lang yan.”
“Dali mo lang kasi ma stress, palibhasa #richkidproblems lang.”
This kind of thinking has to stop.
I mean, the Filipino people has denied the existence of mental health problems for so long, that even when a senator brought up the Mental Health Act, it got ridiculed. When the government opened a suicide hotline, it got prank-called.
No, there is nothing ridiculous about taking care of yourself, physically or psychologically.
And I know the stigma, because I have seen people being victimized by it.
Look, mental illness, like any other physical problem, cannot be chocked up to weakness, or dramatics, or attention seeking problems. It is a real, non-imagined problem that MRI scans can detect in our brains because although there are instances that outside factors can trigger them, more often than not, it’s also thanks to chemical imbalances in our brains.
So yeah, sometimes, when depressed or bipolar or other mentally ill people can’t explain why they feel certain things, it’s because they really can’t.
Don’t be ignorant.
Open your eyes (and heart) to the reality that even people who live in one of the happiest places on earth (allegedly) don’t feel happy all the time. These problems are real, and if you choose to think otherwise, then maybe you need to educate yourself.
Check out these helpful links here:
- World Mental Health Day – what is it and why is it important?
- 5 Important Reasons to Stop Ignoring Your Mental Health
- Why we need a mental health law in PH
And if, like me, you want to address this very real, very important problem