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The Invisible Crisis That’s Tearing Philippine Society Apart

Photo Credit: The Odyssey Online

Photo Credit: The Odyssey Online

The Philippines is in a mental health crisis. We now have the highest number of depressed people in Southeast Asia, with at least 7 Filipinos committing suicide everyday.

The exact reason why depression and suicide rates are on the rise is extremely difficult to pinpoint. It is impossible to determine a singular root cause because a myriad of factors can come into play here: poverty, political and economic instability, education, and access to healthcare to name a few. The dark political climate we’re in isn’t helping either, especially since exposure to negative news in social media and TV can negatively affect your mental health.  

This mental health crisis will be one of the biggest battles our generation will have to face. Luckily, the proposed Mental Health Act is a great start! But it may not be enough. Why? Because government initiatives take time and ultimately, their outcome is something we cannot directly control. We can support it heavily but at the end of the day, progress can be very slow. And with all the red tape, we don't know when this law will be passed. And even if it is passed, how long it will take to implement changes? And how effective will these changes be?

Apart from supporting the mental health act, there are other ways to make a difference – and the good news is that these are things you can do today without waiting for the support of congress. So if you want to help improve the state of mental health in our country, there are a few things you can do:

1. Build (or invest in) a mental health start-up.

If you are thinking of starting a new business venture, consider doing something in the mental health space. It is a space that is ripe for innovation but is often overlooked for more “traditional” industries such as e-commerce and online services. I advise a start-up accelerator and I rarely see innovations in the mental health space, which is a shame since Filipinos are so creative and can certainty build solutions for more accessible health care. Building or investing in a start-up is a really powerful way of directly helping our country’s mental health situation.

2. Make mental well-being a priority for your company (or team).

You don’t have to build own start-up to make a difference. If you’re a executive or manager of an existing company and looking for your next big project, consider proposing a mental health program for your employees. Employee mental wellbeing is a huge driver of productivity and can give you great Return On Investment if done right. If a company-wide initiative is not possible for you or will take too long, then you can always start small and just focus on your immediate team members first.

3. Use social media to accelerate mental health education.

We all know how powerful social media is – so why not use it to your advantage? Share articles and videos about mental health in your news feed, especially those that you found particularly helpful or enlightening. Just make sure that these articles come from a reliable source. Then once you share it, ask your family and friends to share it too! That way, not only are you helping your immediate family and friends, but you’ll also be helping others through them! This is why we launched Safespace, a Facebook video series that talks about all things mental health. Our pilot episode is about how to know if you have depression, and you can watch it here!

4. Speaking of education, start young.

It’s never too early to start educating children about mental health, particularly how to express and manage their emotions. 16% of Filipinos aged 13-15 have contemplated suicide, which means that mental health education should start way before the teenage years. So if you’re a parent or teacher with grade school or high school aged children, now is the time to start talking to them about mental health 101.

5. Help build the next generation of Filipino psychologists.

One of the biggest risks of this country is that we currently do not have enough psychologists to help support the growing Filipino population. I wrote about this in an earlier post, but to recap: There are 103 million people in the Philippines – yet only 120 people took the psychology licensure exam last year. 63 people passed and unfortunately, not all of these licensed psychologists are necessarily entering the mental health field.

Thousands of Filipino students take up psychology for college every year, but very few decide to pursue a career in mental health – and a big reason is that they have no idea what a career in clinical or counseling psychology looks like. Many aren’t even aware that it’s a viable career option! So if you’re an educator such as myself (or a parent of a psychology student), you can help by making college students aware of more career options related to mental health. I’ve found that many of my students in DLSU are now contemplating a career in clinical psychology, but that’s only after an extensive discussion about what that career looks like – and clear details about how they can get there.

This post only talks about 5 potential things we can do to help the Philippines, but I’m certain there are many more things we can do to help. So what about you – what else do you think you can do to improve the state of mental health in our country?