As we count down to World Mental Health Day on Oct. 10, we asked mental health experts and advocates: What would you like to tell everyone about mental health? What would you like to tell someone struggling with their mental health?
Here’s what they said:
End the stigma. All feelings are valid! —Dr. Gia Baquiran Sison
There is no simplistic, linear way to explain suicide, clinical depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and all other mental health issues. It’s much more complex than a one-sentence, one-paragraph explanation. For survivors of suicide loss and mental health disorders, it takes years to a lifetime to fully grasp the situation. A little empathy and understanding go a long way. When there seems to be no one left, you have yourself. And you are enough. —Kate Alvarez, founder of SOS Philippines (Survivors of Suicide), facebook.com/sosphilippines, writer and mental health advocate
I’d like to say the following: It’s ok to not be ok. You’re not alone and we’re here to listen and help. Your story matters and we want to be part of your journey to wellness. —Ronald John Recio, MA RPsy EMDRPRac MBPsS, clinical psychologist
All of us at some point in our lives will hit rock bottom. When it barges in our doorstep, we should take it in. Because healing only happens the minute we face it. I may not be able to get a full grasp of what you are going through, but here’s my hand, willing to hold your heart. I am here and I will listen. —Kooky Tuason, spoken word artist/radio host/educator
I wish to tell everyone having mental health issues that no matter how difficult it is for you, this is not the end. This will not last forever. Right now, for those who are struggling with their mental health, just hang in there. All this will pass. Use this pain to find greater purpose in your life. If you want someone to talk to, we are just a text or call away. —Marissa Jusay, family counselor, Ruben M. Tanseco, S.J. Center for Family Ministries
When you hear people talk about their mental health problems, there’s always that level of relatability, and I think that’s where the danger stems from. It’s easy to think, “Hey, I’ve been through something similar and I just exercised, or took a walk, or ate a box of chocolates, chose to think positively and I got over it. I’m sure they could, too.”
It’s not that easy. You can’t just pray/walk/exercise/drink/sleep/eat away the darkness. It’s different for everybody and you have to respect that. Sometimes, you can just help someone survive through a season until they’re ready for help, and sometimes, you just have to be there with them, and sit with the pain.
You have to accept the fact that mental disorders are actual sicknesses in the same realm as hypertension, diabetes or cancer.
Just like most disorders/diseases, key to a meaningful life is a good, supportive, loving community—and that includes you.
From someone living with bipolar disorder, I have to say it: living with this is hard. And I’ve accepted the fact that my life’s not going to play out as I planned and I’ll have to carve my own path to a different version of success. But in spite of that, I have to be honest: I’m at peace with it, and finally I can say that it’s made me a better person. In my case, it hasn’t kept me from a full life. It’s a different life from what I imagined—but full nonetheless. So keep hope.
And remember these three things: Stick to a sleep schedule, find a community that loves you and don’t let your disorder hold you back from seeing the big and small endless possibilities that life has to offer. —Jasper Hannah, media relations manager, freelance writer and artist
Mental health is not just about mental illness. It is our state of well-being—an awareness of our strengths and potentials, our capacity to be resilient, to be productive and to contribute to our community.
I’d like to tell someone who’s struggling with their mental health that their feelings are valid and that the fact that they are struggling means that they are fighting it out—that is courage. Also, that they are not alone, especially at this point when many people are struggling as well; they just need to reach out because help is available from at least one person around us who we can trust. And if this will not be enough and our functioning and our relationships are already affected, there are mental health professionals or institutions that we can seek help from. —Dr. Carolina Uno-Rayco, RGC, RPsy, national executive director, Philippine Mental Health Association, Inc.Nais kong ibahagi ang natutunan ko kay Dr. Dinah Nadera sa isang nakaraang webinar tungkol sa art therapy: “Ang kalusugang pampag-
iisip ay tumutukoy sa lagay ng ginhawa na ang isang tao ay nakapagpapamalas ng sariling galing at gilas, nakakaangkop nang sapat sa mga normal na hamon ng buhay, nakapagpapakita ng tatag sa pagharap sa matinding dagok sa buhay, nakakapagtrabaho nang mahusay at mabunga at nakakapag-ambag ng tulong sa pamayanan.’
Napakahirap magpakatatag ngayong pandemya, at kahit nakakatulong ang pag-isolate ay maaring makaranas tayo ng malubhang kalungkutan o pagkabalisa. Paalala lang sa sarili—mahalaga ang nararamdaman at mahalaga ang buhay natin. Alagaan ang ating sarili at bigyan ng sapat na atensyon ang ating paghinga at pahinga. Humingi ng tulong kahit pa pakiramdam natin ay okay pa rin tayo. Magpakalakas at huwag hayaang maubos ang lakas. Pakinggan ang pintig ng pusong nagsasabing mahalaga ka at buhay ka pa. Sikaping mahalin ang sarili kahit pa paunti-unti araw araw. —Valene Lagunzad, mental health awareness advocate, Buhay Movement
Mental health is a real issue and part of being human. We all experience highs and lows, and that is alright. Nothing wrong about that. We should be able to discuss this freely, and it should not be treated as a flaw. Acknowledge what you’re feeling. It’s alright. It is also okay to seek professional help. —Ruby Gan
Mental health is just as important as physical health. Just because you don’t see a person’s suffering or symptoms, doesn’t mean it’s not there. There is no shame in looking to treat it; just as you would go to a doctor for a broken ankle or diabetes, you should seek treatment for mental health conditions as well.
You are more than your bipolar disorder, your depression, your anxiety, your PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder). You have it; it does not have you. Talk to someone. Find a routine. Practice self-care. Take your medicines. Keep a gratitude journal. Exercise. Make that effort to do better and be better, but allow yourself to heal as well.—Erika Aquino, brand and marketing strategist, brewery owner and living with bipolar disorder
Don’t waste time not taking care of yourself. Find what brings you happiness and meaning right now. Failing that, buy a corgi! —Mark Christian Parlade
There are three things I really want every Filipino to know about mental health:
1. Our mental health is absolutely intertwined with our bodies. We need to know that we cannot think ourselves out of a dark season; in order to crawl out of these dark days and nights, we need to make sure our bodies move. It can be as simple as a five-minute walk, stretch all limbs, arms upward, legs shake move bend and stretch, and the one thing we all are chronically subject to but rarely note—try to periodically be aware of how your jaw is feeling. Unclench it as often throughout the day. You’ll be surprised at how much energy goes to your gritted teeth. It’s preventing you from smiling, and it depletes you of calm. Mind your jaw, and when you do you may feel the calm molecules settle in.
2. Mental wellness is not an on/off switch. Try to picture it like a volume button. It can go from one to four, then four to six then back to two again. It isn’t on-happy, then off-depressed, we are not machines. The good news is, many of us are sliding up and down that line—and we can do this slowly. Remember—instant things are rarely excellent. So be patient and work on your mood and disposition and function slowly.
Tip: Do things slower, like when you brew coffee, or sip it slowly, bathe slower than usual, walk slowly to the kitchen, count your steps—these tiny movement things take you back to the present and this always helps. When your mind is in the past, you tend to be sad; when it’s in the future, it can be anxious or fearful. So drag your ass back to the present minute and slowly walk to the kitchen and back. Slow down, you’ll be surprised at how rushed you have lived your days.
3. If all else fails, nap.
—Gang Badoy Capati, Trauma Research Foundation fellow, Boston; lead therapist, Project: Steady Asia INQ