“Baliw” and “May sayad sa utak” – this is how Filipinos usually describe individuals who suffer from mental health concerns. Standing squarely behind the issue are many helping and caring professionals in the field such as psychology and counseling practitioners like me.
Last November 2017, the Congress and Senate approved the Mental Health Bill which champions the rights of people with mental health disorders. The bill has passed the bicameral process and now awaits the President’s signature, after which, a landmark Mental Health Law will be in place in the country.
According to the Global School-Based Student Health survey from January to March 2015, 17% of high school students 13 to 15 years old said they attempted suicide at least once, 12% said they seriously considered attempting suicide, and 11% have made plans on how they would commit suicide.
According to Jean Goulbourn, president of the non-profit Natasha Goulbourn Foundation (Hopeline Emotional and Crisis Intervention), “The problem is that they easily get embarrassed. Like if they get scolded by their teachers, they immediately think about committing suicide and it is really disturbing.”
As a Psychology graduate, professional teacher, registered psychometrician, and practicing school counselor, I have observed the stigma in our society when it comes to mental health.
Promoting mental health will develop awareness among Filipinos.
People nowadays easily self-diagnose, so they tend to label themselves or other people right away even without professional basis. It is also noticeable that various barriers or hurdles keep people from seeking professional help. Moreover, I have personal and professional experiences with clients experiencing abuse, low self-esteem, attendance issues, family problems, relationship problems, misbehavior, aggression, bullying, ADHD, autism, HIV AIDS, stress, anxiety, depression, and suicidal crisis. These cases helped me improve my approach to my personal life as well as my professional life-counseling skills.
As an individual, I find self-fulfillment in helping other people. I also learn from their experiences and hone my skills as a school counselor in the process.
For five years, I have handled unforgettable cases that have enabled me to actively push for mental health advocacy. These include people who experience rape, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, and others. In working with these people towards a healthier mental well-being, I have learned that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to each person.
This is why I have plans of pursuing my career in counseling and becoming a full-fledged guidance counselor. I am fighting for the need to improve mental health services in our country especially in public schools to create ripples of positive change in the school community.