Philippines: Mental Health

August 08, 2018
In June, Duterte signed the 'Philippine Mental Health Law' which lets mental health services be more accessible to those everywhere even in the Barangays (Villages). Though this bill was passed, Philippines still has a massive problem with the mental health stigma.

Where I am from, people are more educated and open-minded on this topic. Where my family is from, mental health is more of a taboo. I found out the hard way about how others react to mental illness.

I'm not going to go into the entire backstory because it's not essential. Just for reference, I've been diagnosed with high functioning depression, Generalized anxiety disorder and recently was put on medication for ADD. Even as I type this out, I have this small sense of guilt of thinking I'm crazy because of illnesses I cannot control. This is something that has been ingrained in my mind for years after my diagnosis. Not just from my parents but from the rest of my family, some that are even medical professionals.

I was 12 when my diagnosis was let out of my family. I wasn't going to say anything to anyone, but it was my mother who told her sisters who then told my cousins and so forth. My mom at the time believed I was fine and that this was all an act. My aunt asked my mom if I was insane. My other aunt who is a nurse couldn't believe this was happening. As a nurse, she knew I couldn't control it, but as my aunt, she didn't handle it like I thought she would. She didn't believe I had anything wrong with me. To this day, she still asks why I take medication like she doesn't understand. I cannot blame any of my relatives for the way they reacted; it's how they were brought up.

No one dares to speak about my illness anymore. It scares some of them to think their own blood has an issue that would give them a lousy status in town. My mothers oldest sister secret got out in our village, and our whole family was ashamed because of her. All everyone says is that she's going out of her mind and move on. Her issues will never be solved until one of us brings up the problem to her. I'm not allowed to get her mental health therapy as it is considered disrespectful.

The only time I have ever brought up my illness was when I wanted to ask my older cousin about how much my medicine would cost in her hospital. I couldn't handle myself without some support that I don't get from my family; I get support from my medication. Now getting my pills here is going to be more robust than it was in America because of the problem with drugs. They will probably cost way more, and I won't be able to get a months supply, I'll only get a few pills at a time.

It's rough having the people you love the most not trying to see from your point of view. I know their harsh words come from a place of affection. I know they want me to get better. My family and friends in the Philippines can't get past the social stigma on mental health. I don't tell them when I feel anxious for no reason or when I can't seem to focus that day. I'm probably afraid of how they would react to me or maybe how they wouldn't react at all. It's this subconscious fear of not being accepted.

I have watched alarming signs of mental health issues in my family and not be able to point it out to anyone for the sake of keeping face. I have seen my cousin scratch himself uncontrollably when he gets yelled at as a coping mechanism and then tells me he doesn't know what happened. I've watched one of my only girl cousins stop going to school her senior year after she got ill and was too depressed to even get out of her house. I've witnessed my mom and grandmother get nauseous after seeing any mess. I sometimes can hear one of my younger cousins cry himself to sleep because he can't cope with our grandfather who passed away two years ago. I witnessed two of the little ones steal money from our aunt and then have angry outbursts after getting caught. There are so many more concerns, and still, no one will bring up how he or she are doing because they aren't physically injured.

I cannot take care of the people Id do anything for and also look after my health. I've neglected myself of treatment so I could look after the ones I love. That doesn't get anything done and makes things harder. I still have yet to realize that I can't always change my families opinions on mental health. I can't force them to look after themselves.

The mental health law is one step in the right direction. Healthcare in the Philippines is relatively affordable, and now Filipinos don't have to suffer in silence anymore. This law also brings light to one of the many obstacles the country faces. People will be able to learn more about mental health. The people who are suffering finally have hope.

At the end of the day, everyone wants to feel like they are accepted and now with time, they will be.


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