IT HAS been a year since the Department of Health officially launched a national hotline that will provide help to people with mental health concerns. The project is called HOPELINE, a 24/7 crisis support hotline for depression and suicide prevention. People behind the phone are trained by professional psychiatrists and psychologists who have undergone intensive training to answer callers in times of need.
However, I have encountered many stories circulating in social networking sites, reporting the hotline as inattentive. One user stated that the line becomes busy in the early hours of the morning, while another claimed that her responder hung up the phone when she was crying so hard she could not speak. These were only some of the reports that Twitter users raised against the HOPELINE project.
There are gaps in the mental health system in the country. The easy access to care is crucial in tackling the stigma. Whereas statistically speaking, students both boys and girls aged 10 to 19 years old are mostly the victims of suicide. As one of the articles published in Harvard suggests, “students often feel overwhelmed, but symptoms such as diminished interest in activities, chronic fatigue and unintended weight loss or gain could mean more than the typical midterm doldrums—they could mean clinical depression.”
As critical issues circulate among the grounds of the University, other topics are isolated, especially those that include one’s emotional state. These topics, I think, are likened to ocean tides because at times they are sensationalized but oftentimes these issues remain low and hidden. Thus, this results to the creation of a stigma in mental sickness which can lead to discrimination. This is the job of the mental health sector which involves college guidance counselors to help normalize mental illnesses by increasing the level of awareness. Students should be aware that there is a doctor who is available to discuss one’s condition privately. Only when people are as comfortable seeing a psychiatrist as they are seeing a doctor for a physical ailment will we be able to uncover mental illnesses and treat them.
As there is conflict in passing the Mental Health Bill, the country still struggles to recognize mental disorders that some Filipinos battle with. Although everyone has their unique way of coping with their sadness, such as being dependent on alcohol, there are still ways to aid these people positively. Seeking help is one of the most effective ways to battle sickness. Fear in being professionally diagnosed should not be a problem because it is the first step towards healing.
If the Filipino young people with mental health problems get the care they need, their deaths or suffering throughout their life can be prevented. As the students in the Arts and Letters community read this, I hope that they are strong enough to stand against the stigma in order to help each other in fighting for a better mental health system in the country. F
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