I have a mental health problem. Yes, you read that right, friends.
I realized that the perfect time to share this is during this time of the year, when we get to banner Mental Health Awareness within the month of October. This topic is very personal and inconvenient for me to open up about initially because like most of us, I am afraid of the criticism that comes from a widely and frustratingly misinformed society. For my blog entry this month, I resolved to communicate as clearly as I could about a mental health problem of mine, and why we should all care about it, too.
1.) The Problem Seems Abstract Until It Happens To You
As a college student, I have encountered peers and colleagues who have claimed to be mentally unhealthy yet failed to seek professional advice or help because of the shame that comes with it. One friend and colleague in particular had shared to me how she often tried to have therapy sessions but was mocked about it by friends she valued. By the time we became friends, I had witnessed how her anxieties had taken its toll on her, resulting to her frequent break downs, alarming social paranoia, and uncontrollable aim for perfection. I could not understand by that time how reluctance had consumed her from taking the necessary steps to help herself, until a similar distress happened to me.
Within the same school year, I found myself in being increasingly professionally-dysfunctional, socially-withdrawn, physically-exhausted, and emotionally-drained. I experienced refusing to go to school altogether which led me to having accumulated absences and barely passing grades. I also broke down a lot in between classes, school activities, social gatherings, and even at home during the most random times. My ability to focus and cope in day-to-day tasks was numbing down. As an achiever, these red flags were overwhelmingly defeating because I knew that if choice was enough to pull myself together, there was no way I would have dragged myself around like that for months. While I will not know anymore for sure if what I experienced then was really anything serious because I never got to confirm it with a professional, it sure left me a lasting personal evaluation of how it is like to suffer from an unhealthy state of mental health.
2.) The Problem Has Stigma Which Come From People That Matters
The thing about the stigma surrounding mental health problems is that they usually come from people who are our greatest influencers and support system. Going back to mine and my colleague’s experience regarding seeking professional help, we similarly felt we needed to keep everything to ourselves because it’s close peers who emphasized their lost of confidence in us if we continue to make our struggles apparent. Addressing mental health concerns just then turned out to be exposing unnecessary vulnerabilities. Another experience affirmed this implication as I recalled that once during a class with a Psychology professor, we were asked if who among us would honestly be seeking professional help if we happen to recognize red flags in our respective mental health. It appeared that there’s barely to almost none who actually would. This is interesting given that we were all Psychology majors within that room.
Furthermore, it’s sad to experience first hand how the stigma proliferates through the words, behaviors, and decisions of even the expected professional helpers because of narrow-mindedness, unnecessary labeling, and incongruent actions with principles. I say this with admission of participating in these because I also tended to be unemphatic with the needs of the people within my immediate circles, close-minded through guiltily labeling others with “just seeking attention” or “simply unmotivated” from time to time, and unavailable to even just lend an ear or extend a hand to people who asks for them. What we oftentimes miss is that we all similarly observe and influence our network of friends and family, therefore contributing significantly how we, the people we value, and the people who value us, view problems like this one. If we are serious in eradicating the stigma, I believe all of us have a responsibility to demonstrate it first and foremost with the people closest to us.
3.) The Problem Ignites Initiatives Which Need To Be Supported
Although our country is undeniably lagging behind in implementing a solution towards this problem, the good news is that there is an actual legislation ongoing and that we can all participate conveniently in spreading the word around about it. I found it disturbing to ponder that the statistics do not lie when it displays a 1 in 5 ratio of people suffering from mental health problems worldwide according to World Health Organization, and that there only is an estimate of 5 psychiatrists per 10, 000, 000 Filipinos to render service. It is absolutely necessary for us to unite in signing this petition and sharing it with all of our loved ones so that most health insurance companies would finally cover mental health-related issues and the stigma on those suffering from mental illnesses would vanish eventually, just to mention a few of the scope this act is covering. Upon my social withdrawal for a few months after my college graduation this year, I stumbled upon this petition to advance a mental health act in our country which would address the mental health problems our countrymen have.
I made sure to keep myself updated about it so I reached out to the organization who initiated the petition and got myself in touch with people who similarly desire to see this act be passed. Opportunities to talk about all this actually do not just happen during such a month like this when mental health is promoted, but even also through the examples of mainstream celebrities who show value to recovery and openness about it, the popular movies and shows we watch which has a plot or character associated with mental health problems, and even the trends in different media platforms which we could utilize to engage in more meaningful and relevant discussions with other people. One simply needs to be passionate enough to care and vigilant enough to pay attention to such transitioning points about this matter. I myself am working on this, and I believe all of us could start contributing our respective and collective parts, too.
At present, I could say more strongly than ever that I have a mental health problem as much as everyone in this country does, due to all the risks we all similarly have and the stigma which worsens this problem. But at the end of the day, I believe that we all are going to take accountability in standing side by side of each other about this matter when we start caring and sharing. If you find yourself interested to do something about this, you can start by signing this petition or even connecting to mental health advocates. Let us all help build a mental health concerned society! ☺