Editorial Cartoon: Julius Aldwin Cuenco
Being human is burdensome.
School life, backed by the current chaotic and nonchalant society, is a battlefield riddled with a day-in, day-out chronicle of failed quizzes albeit sleepless nights, truckloads of backlog study materials, incomprehensible lessons from seemingly sadistic book authors and sprinkled with an occasional lovers' quarrel worthy of Raffy Tulfo's infamous gag reel. Sad. Stressful. Exhausting.
In 2015, the Center for Collegiate Mental Health cited anxiety, depression, and stress as the top 3 diagnoses on university campuses across the US. Locally, a 2011 WHO Global School-Based Health Survey showed that an appalling 16% of students as young as 13-15 years old have seriously considered attempting suicide while 13% have actually attempted suicide one or more times. Finding yourself or a friend among these figures is not far from reality. The sighs of frustration and feelings of giving up are now nearly as frequent as breathing. In fact, the Philippines has the highest number of depressed people in Southeast Asia. Mental illness is the third most common form of disability in the country according to a National Statistics Office report and records show a high number of cases among the youth.
Fortunately for Filipinos, steps have been made to combat this epidemic. Non-government organizations with the help of medical experts have started working with the government to establish anti-suicide measures. In the hopes of assisting people with mental health concerns ranging from counseling to psychiatric emergencies and suicide prevention, the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) launched a crisis hotline manned by trained professionals 24/7, to properly deal with those in need. In another ground-breaking victory for the Filipinos, Republic Act No. 11036 or the Mental Health Act was signed into law on June 20, 2018. The law seeks to establish a national mental health policy directed towards improving the health of the population and emphasizes the basic right of all Filipinos to mental health care. The Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) for the said law were approved on January 2019.
However, there is still a lot of work to be done. Whether it is rapid response to a suicide emergency or cultivating local partnerships with people in the barangays for community-based services, each one of us should be a driving force for a mentally healthier world. We can boost the trajectory of lives saved from mental illness through a plethora of small advocacies to large awareness campaigns.
Finally, communication with the people around you, especially the ones you love, is a huge factor for everyone in need. As the gloomy Eeyore puts it--a little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference.
After all, we all have mental health. The more we learn about each other's, the more we learn about our own.
Being human is beautiful.