Support groups 'a start' for those with mental health issues – advocates

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 9) — Joining support groups is a good beginning for the potentially depressed, mental health advocates said on Monday.

In an interview with CNN Philippines, World Health Organization mental health advocate Antoinette Taus and Miss International 2016 Kylie Verzosa discussed psychological services for those on a low budget.

"You could call the [Department of Health] and see if there are any programs that they could recommend... But I feel like if you honestly approach your community, you could come up with something as well," said Taus.

The actress and host said being a part of a support group was a "small start."

"It's not diagnosing each other. It's simply coming together to talk about issues, if it's not really something that's so critical yet," she added.

Verzosa agreed, saying "there is a big need for mental health services in the Philippines."

"There are government services provided, which [have] like [a] P100 consultation fee at your local hospital, though there is a long waiting line," said Verzosa.

Taus and Verzosa also encouraged a visit to a psychologist or psychiatrist.

"Yes, we need more doctors, but we also need more people to start going to doctors so that the government and doctors themselves won't hesitate to take that path [toward providing mental health]," Taus said.

Verzosa came forward with her own experience of depression last year, and is now championing mental health awareness.

Related: Miss International Kylie Verzosa had depression - and is now a mental health advocate

Miss International 2017 Mariel de Leon in a tweet on Monday also revealed her own struggle with anxiety and depression. She was one of the celebrities to condemn "Eat Bulaga" host Joey de Leon's controversial comments on the condition.

 

Depression is a clinically diagnosed mental illness which affects at least 300 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. A media report citing the Philippine Psychiatric Association estimated that one in five adult Filipinos have mental disorders.

Some symptoms of depressive disorder, as listed by the Department of Health, are excessive guilt or feelings of worthlessness; diminished ability to concentrate, or indecisiveness; significant weight loss or weight gain; lack of sleep or oversleep; fatigue or loss of energy; psychomotor agitation and slowness; and recurrent thoughts of deaths or suicide.

 

The Senate passed on May Senate Bill 1354, or the proposed "Mental Health Act of 2017," a policy of providing psychological services and protecting those with mental conditions. Counterpart bills are  pending at the House of Representatives.

Safe spaces online

Taus recommended looking into activities by the Youth Coalition for Mental Health, a community which hosts regular activities -- the latest of which is the National Youth Congress on Mental Health on October 13 to 16.

"They have regular events when it comes to mental health issues, and they also are a big supporter of the mental health bill," said Taus.

Verzosa also shared her Facebook page, 'Mental Health Matters by Kylie Verzosa,' which she put up to "reach out" to others. She also put up a Facebook group where people could share their experiences.

"I wanted to share articles that have helped me go through my own depression," said Verzosa.

"It's easier also to connect. I also wanted us to be a community where you can share your stories of happiness, joy, survival or sadness," she added.

Other online platforms spreading mental health awareness include Silakbo PH and PRISM. Inquiries on clinics, psychologists, or psychiatrists near you can also be fielded to the Psychological Association of the Philippines and the Philippine Psychiatric Association. The organizations also post updates on mental health services.

Volunteer work helps

Taus also shared her work with Communities Organized for Resource Allocation, a nongovernmental organization that works on distributing untapped resources to the poor. The organization is named after Cora, Taus' mother whose death triggered her depression.

"Volunteer work is even great for people going through mental health issues. I think a lot of therapists even recommend that," said Taus.

"As you heal people, you're healing yourself... It's one of the ways you can divert your emotions," she added.

Verzosa said "giving time to other people, volunteering, helps a lot."

"When you're depressed, you're so inside your head," she said. "When I was depressed, I volunteered. That's when I started trying new things but learning new things," she said.