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Mental Health Awareness Is Growing

By Pebbles Mendoza

During the last week, Boracay has seen three tragic suicides. It’s being widely said that the psychological effects of prolonged lockdowns, loss of employment, and the inability to handle the ensuing panic and related fear, were all to blame.

Our Boracay-Malay chapter of the Red Cross have embarked upon a program to try to help those in need. And some Island residents are also forming a help group to assist in comforting these unfortunate victims of the side effects of COVID-19.

Reliable facts and statistics are a must in these days of media bias and fake news reports. So when I embarked upon writing this article, I decided to use the British National Health Service (NHS) website as one of my sources, and I must say, it’s the best medical information site that I’ve come across. While doing my research, I also discovered some statistics on mental health among the UK’s younger population.

According to the NHS, young women between the ages of 17 and 19 are twice as likely to have a mental health problem as men in the same age bracket, with 23.9 percent reporting their sickness. In children aged five to 15, one in nine has a disorder, up from one in 10 when a review was done 13 years ago. Nearly one in four young women has a mental illness concern, with emotional problems such as depression and anxiety being the most common. The survey’s sample size was 9,000 young people.

Dr. Bernadka Dubicka, of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, calls the number of young women with problems "alarming." She says body image pressures, exam stress, and the negative effects of social media may all affect girls disproportionately, while they are also more likely to be victims of abuse and sexual assault. "We can only speculate. We still do not fully understand this - all we know is that we see more girls in our clinics.” Nearly half of those in their late teens with mental health problems had self-harmed or attempted suicide.

Effects Of Social Media

Some say that excessive use of social media may be a factor in the rising numbers of mental health problems, but it’s difficult to confirm. 

The NHS survey showed that children between the ages of 11 and 19 with a mental health problem were more likely to use social media for long periods. Almost one-third of them spent more than four hours a day on social media. Those who did not have a mental health problem were three times less likely to spend as much time using it.

Meanwhile, those young people with mental health problems who use social media a lot said that the number of “likes” they got greatly affected their mood. They were also more likely to compare themselves to other users on social media than were children without mental health problems. The report also cited cyber bullying as a possible issue. But while this does suggest social media can have a negative impact, it does not prove it is to blame. One option being considered by the UK government is a new regulator for the Internet. 

How We Can Help

University College London psychiatrist Dr. Michael Bloomfield says: "Adolescence is a critical period for a person's development, particularly as our brains go through important changes during our teenage years. Since prevention is better than cure, it is really important for all of us in society to understand together why this is and start reducing the rates of mental disorders in young people."

The number of young Filipinos who suffer from mental health issues is difficult to estimate, mainly because the stigma attached to these illnesses prevents people from accepting them or even acknowledging that they exist. It’s commonly believed, for example, that sufferers are physically aggressive and even dangerous. There has always been a serious lack of accurate information on mental health issues imparted to the general public.

We asked above if social media are detrimental to people with mental health issues. But one acquaintance of mine, a young lady in her late teens, said that talking openly about her affliction on her Facebook page has helped her to come to terms with and manage her anxiety. She believes that a lot of the stigma and discrimination from outsiders has now subsided, to the point that many of us are now prepared and willing to help people in situations like hers.

Generally speaking, there is also a lot more professional help available in the country now. The Philippine Mental Health Association has clinical guidance and educational programs available at many centers across the country. It also works with public schools and colleges, and organizes seminars specifically for the country’s youth.

Many psychiatrists and psychologists work in private practices, and are available for consultation at most of the hospitals and clinics that we checked. Professional advice and treatment have always been preferable to me as opposed to trying to hide away from the realities of life. Help is available - you just have to look for it.

Our government, through the Department of Health, is also doing its best to educate the public about mental health issues and promote its mental health care program.


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