Now, If That IG Feature Could Get Worldwide Faster…

Now that my blog has quieted down after that Karaoke fiasco last week, I can go back to blogging things that I do care about: as it has always been with this blog, my main cause is to support mental health awareness and hopefully, find ways to lessen that stigma associated with it.

Fact: The World Health Organization estimates that 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression at any given time, so it’s likely that anyone from your own circle of friends and family could be suffering from it.

Fact: Depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide — and contributes to a lot of global burdens.

Fact: More women are affected by this disease than men, but it is equally jarring for both genders. At its worst, depression can lead to death and suicide.

Enter Instagram

As it is one of the biggest social media platforms in the world, Instagram is doing its share to lessen the stigma and help those who are dealing not only with depression, but with mental illness in general.

A new feature from the app allows users to flag a photo when they think tht someone needs help. Once a photo is flagged, the person who posted it will receive a message that reads:

Someone saw one of your posts and thinks you might be going through a difficult time. If you need support, we’d like to help.

The list is followed by a list of available resources, along with a helpline as a way for the company to make a difference for those struggling with mental illnesses.

Instagram

Instagram is also working with other organizations to create helpful, non-invasive messages for those who are suffering from mental illness. Chief Operating Officer Marne Levine told Seventeen magazine, “We listen to mental health experts when they tell us that outreach from a loved one can make a real difference for those who may be in distress. At the same time, we understand friends and family often want to offer support but don’t know how best to reach out.”

Levine also added that the tools are designed to let people know that they are surrounded by a community that cares about them, especially when they need reminders the most.

Safe Space

The latest feature is the latest that the app released to keep the platform safe in the otherwise toxic cyberspace. Users are also able to filter comments or turn them off, and images that involves self-injury in any way has no room in the app. Even search terms like “self-harm” and “thigh gap” and “thinspiration” have been banned in an effort to keep Instagram as safe as possible.

The new safety feature is currently rolling and right now, it’s only available in the United States. However, multiple reports say that it will expand globally soon. I hope soon is soon enough.

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No, Mental Health Is Not A Joke

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:

 

And if, like me, you want to address this very real, very important problem

Don’t forget to sign the petition:

And So I Kept Living

It’s that time of year again. Suicide prevention was a cause that I thought I fought for from way back in high school. It wasn’t until five years ago that it became real to me.

Five years ago, a person whom I loved very much tried to take his own life. I have been doing my part — or I thought I was — to help stop suicide prevention, but it was more of a mechanical thing. It wasn’t until someone I loved tried to take his own life that suicide, depression, and all these things became real to me. Death may put you six feet under, but it will leave the people who love you wounded, and reeling from a devastating loss.

It certainly changed me. I didn’t know what broken felt like until I saw it in front of my own eyes: first in the eyes of a person I loved, and second, in the eyes of a person who wanted to save a broken boy — who left her in shatters.

It’s been five years, and I’ve seen different versions of soul-crushing brokenness. In a girl who didn’t feel she can be loved. In a girl who can only see darkness. In a boy who felt he needed to prove himself.

In a girl who lost herself in the process of trying to save others.

We feel the weight on of the world on our shoulders sometimes. And often, it’s heavier than what we think we can carry. But we’re still here. We’re still alive. And the world is a messed up place. Beautiful, but messed up. Still, it’s our world. And it’s our life.

And so we keep on living.

 

The Depression Conversation People Need To Hear

So last night, I almost got attacked by a teenager who just started seeing a therapist.

He gave me the fright of my life when he nearly attacked me because I won’t give him the car key. It was eleven in the evening, I just got home from a photography exhibit, and I was truly terrified that he would pull my foot out from under me when he came running up the stairs after me to get the key out of my hand.

I was shaking, maybe out of anger, and maybe out of terror because let’s face it, there is no way I could take on him, who is more than half a foot taller than me and at least 15kg heavier. If it’s any indication, he almost broke his bedroom door in half when he punched it, and made a dent in the wall that my dad just fixed.

So here’s what I want to say:

Dear depressed people,

Your depression is not an excuse for you to act like spoiled brats, and it’s definitely not an excuse for you to act shitty around other people.

Yes, we will cut you some slack when there are days that you can’t get up because it’s too much. Yes, we will cut you some slack when there are days when the world seems to be pushing down on you. Yes, we will cut you some slack when emotions seem uncontrollable, but not when it becomes harmful to anyone else.

No, being depressed does not give you the right to act like a spoiled child. No, being depressed does not mean that you throw a tantrum when someone says “no.” No, being depressed does not mean you can act less like a human being because you’re depressed, not some sort of  animal with no sense of responsibility towards yourself and others.

No, being depressed does not give you the right to abuse anyone in any way. No, being depressed does not mean you can lie, steal, or cheat. No, being depressed does not mean we will watch you become self-destructive, and NO, being depressed does not mean you get special treatment.

Yes, it means we will cut you some slack, maybe even a lot of slack, but it does not mean we will watch you spiral down into that rabbit hole. Being depressed does not give you the right nor the privilege to act like a bastard.

Being depressed means you still have to adhere to rules: whether set by your family, the agreement with your roommates, your work, your church, your society, your country. Being depressed means you also have to fight for yourself, it means you have to help yourself, because you need you more than anything.

It does not mean you fight with people around you because truly, that we’re still here in the first place means we love you and we do not deserve to be mistreated by you.

Dear People With Depressed Loved Ones,

Yes, you need all the patience you can when dealing with them. This one is the fourth that I’ve dealt with since I moved out of our house in the province, and believe me, I’ve seen too much of it.

And here’s the thing: there is only so much you can do for them before you can’t do anything anymore. In the end, getting better is always, always, ALWAYS up to them.

To illustrate:

My former college best friend acted as  a jerk because he felt the world is on his shoulders. Punching walls until his knuckles bled, glaring at people until they scuttle away. I stopped seeing my friends because he acted jealous and possessive and I ended up getting frustrated and almost got kicked out of the dorm (I eventually left before they could kick me out).

My ex boyfriend felt unloved so he tried manipulating people around him and made me feel all kinds of guilty when I wanted to go out with others. Sure, he tells me “you should go out, you need a break” but ends up calling me every ten to fifteen minutes to check in on me because he was afraid something bad might happen. Of course, there’s the “I just miss you” thing he threw every single time because who does not like being missed? Then when I had a breakdown because I was emotionally distressed (I was spiralling into depression myself), he told me I was seeking for attention. Wow, thanks so much for giving me emotional trauma (I was the one who had to take him to the hospital for an overdose) and then had the gall to blame me for it.

My former friend threatened her parents of running away and killing herself when they told her they’re not too keen on the idea of her getting a tattoo. As for me? She told me to go screw myself when I got really sick and can barely get out of bed because she said I was selfish for not putting her first. Sure, I am on the brink collapsing from exhaustion, but why not put her first, right?

This one is the most difficult one yet. While I can get myself out of the toxicity of other people, I probably can’t this time, because family. But to to be honest I am so tired of having to deal with all these and get mistreated anyway.

I don’t want you to think I gave up on people I cared for: I didn’t. I didn’t regret trying to help them. I tried my best to take care of them, but here’s the thing: They have to want to help themselves too. There is only so much you could do. If you tried your best and things still don’t work out, it is NOT your fault.

That being said, I’m going back to sleep. It’s time to move on. I’m always, always, ALWAYS the one who has to be strong.

Screw me, right?

Self Injury Awareness Day 2016

There is a stigma surrounding people who experience depression and anxiety, and even more so for people who self harm.

Fortunately, there are sites and resources that provide information to help people understand self-injury. We live in a time and place where mental health issues should be accepted, not stigmatized: those who struggle with difficulties should also be free in expressing mental health problems instead of being trapped in the silence.

Here are a few resources to spread awareness about the seriousness of self-injury and mental health problems:

friends factsheet

LifeSIGNS fact sheet on Self Injury Awareness

Learn more about self injury and help stop the stigma.