7 Ugly Truths about Depression and Mental Illnesses as Told by Empowering Filipinas

Words By: Carinna Reyes

In celebration of Suicide Awareness Month for this September, Women’s Business Council Philippines (WBCP) held a symposium in Dusit Thani Hotel last September 27, 2018, titled: “Crawling Out of the Black Hole of Depression and Mental Illnesses”.

In this event, they invited three confident women who are well respected in their fields to talk about something that can be quite sensitive.

Among them was Pam Pastor; an editor from Philippine Daily Inquirer, a book author, a band vocalist, and someone who suffers from Clinical Depression.

Another was renowned Filipina psychiatrist Dr. Corazon Angela Cuadro.

Finally, there was famed fashion designer turned wellness advocate Jean Goulbourn who is the founder of Natasha Goulbourn Foundation (originally named after her daughter and now named New Good Feelings) which was one of the organizations responsible for the formation of Hopeline.

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These women bravely discussed and offered different perspectives regarding mental health; as a patient, a doctor, and as a loved one. Here are a few important points they’ve made that should be heard by everyone, whether they experience a mental illness or not:

7. The stigma around depression does exist.

And it can be surprising who you can hear it from. For Pam, she heard it from her uncle, who was a retired lawyer (“madadaan yan sa prayer”), and her grandmother, who she considered as well-read (“nangyayari lang yan sa States”).

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“As if that would be the normal response to someone who, for instance, has tonsillitis”, she aptly puts it.

6. Depression is a convincing liar.

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What’s worse than the disbelief that some of the people around you may feel towards your illness is the growing doubt your brain makes you feel. Depression, for one, makes you feel like nothing is wrong and you’re only overreacting, or that you don’t deserve medical attention when you do.

Pain, may it be mental or physical, is valid.  Your quality of life matters, even if the problem seems intangible and almost invisible.

5. Depression can make you selfish.

When someone you love is going through an internal struggle, all you wish is to be there for them. But when that person rejects your help and pushes you away, it can come off as them not caring for you as much as you do for them.

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If you’re someone who is affected by a mental illness, keep in mind the people that love you. Ask for their forgiveness. It is understandable that you have no control over what you say or do whenever you have attacks, but it is your actions after your episodes that define who you are. Remember that your loved ones are with you on this battle. Showing your appreciation for them helps them too.

4. Mental Illnesses are not covered by an HMO.

A big reason why Filipinos tend to dismiss mental illnesses is due to the high cost of seeking medical help.  According to Dra. Cuadro, there is approximately 1 out of 3 people who experience mental health issues in the Philippines, but the count of those who go through therapy and medication is fewer than that.

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With a therapy session costing between Php 1,000-4,000, additional medicine, and the increase of prices due to inflation, it becomes a privilege rather than a right for a common Filipino worker to check on his mental health. Thankfully, the mental health law was recently passed that seeks to address this problem.  This law will also be further discussed on the second part of this talk series by WBCP.

Also Read: Historic! Philippine Mental Health Bill Passes on Senate

3. Depression is a continuum and is multifactorial.

Aside from the lack of manpower in the medical field (approximately 1 psychiatrist for every 250,000 patients in the Philippines), what makes mental illnesses difficult to diagnose is its very nature.

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For instance, if the symptoms of depression are observed, these feelings are normal occurrences to a healthy person. Only when it is recurring does it become pathological. When it does, identifying the cause of it is another difficulty as well. It may be biological (thyroid problems, hormonal imbalance for women), genetic, or psychosocial factors that triggered this mental illness to surface.

To know whether you or your loved one is experiencing clinical depression, Dra.

Cuadro recommends you answer the Patient Health Questionnaire 9. If you experience 5 out of 9 symptoms within the past two weeks, it is advisable you visit a psychiatrist or seek medical help.

2. Family relationships are among the top three causes why individuals call the Hopeline.

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The other two being Romance and Bullying. Unfortunate as it is, Mrs. Gouldbourn reminds everyone to not only check on your friends but your family too. Sometimes the pressure we put on our family members is not putting them on the right path, but rather the opposite. Checking on each other’s mental health should be a norm in the household for the betterment of the whole family’s wellbeing.

1. The happiest or the saddest day can trigger a mental illness.

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The ugliest truth about mental illness is that it can pop up at any point in your life. For others like Mrs. Goulbourn, it was because of the side effects of medicine she was prescribed to take. For some like Pam, it was right after one of the happiest days of her life- after meeting her Hollywood crush, Conan O’ Brien.

For others, it may be right after a tragic event. Like cancer, it can show up any time, which is even more reason why we shouldn’t be afraid to discuss it and to help remove the stigma around it.

This October 24, 2018, WBCP is holding the second part of this talk series, titled “W2W Talks 2: Are you NUTS? An In-Depth Discussion on the Mental Health Law and How it Affects Business” in Dusit Thani Hotel as well. Speakers include Senator Risa Hontiveros, the proponent for the Mental Health Law, and a representative from DOLE. Registration for this event costs Php 2,400, inclusive of food and drinks.

Check up on a loved one, or on yourself. You are not alone, and your illness shouldn’t be a taboo. You are bigger than your mental illness, and someday, you will be okay too.

Also Read: Pursuing Your Passion in This Age of Anxiety and Depression