Friday, May 31, 2019

Mental Health Awareness

The month of May is Mental Health Awareness month. It is the time where people raise awareness about mental health and mental health issues. It’s the time where several groups try to help erase the stigma of having mental health problems so that help can be given to the people who need it the most.  

I’m glad that there is such a month for raising awareness for mental health because there are so many people who can benefit from the knowledge that could help others and, more often than not, themselves. 

While there are already several existing groups who advocate for this issue, I think that worldwide there is still a long way to go when it comes to how we view mental health problems. The stereotype that people who suffer from mental illness are of the straight jacket-wearing, institutionalized, and to-be-sedated variety because they are “crazy” is still alive and well. The amount of those aware is still widely outnumbered by the ones who are uneducated about this. 

There are so many who suffer from mental health problems who suffer alone and in silence because of these stereotypes. People think that people with these problems are weak or broken but in reality, so many of them are stronger than what we think. Can you imagine being able to do things like going to work or school and taking care of various responsibilities despite issues that weigh them down emotionally and mentally? All this they do without showing others that they have problems. They put on a brave face because there are still so many who don’t understand what mental health issues are about/ There is still a problem with acceptance and support from others which is why many people tend to deal with their problems on their own, without going to the doctor and getting the help they need. 

Full disclosure, I have had (or still have, actually) my own share of issues. There was a time when I was cutting myself, and there were one or two times when I attempted to take my life (but was, obviously, not successful). It came to the point where my doctor had prescribed anti-depressants, although I made the choice to stop taking them and to try alternative methods to feel better. Meditation helps. Talking to people willing to listen and provide support, which I have been blessed enough to have, makes a big difference. I don't think I would still be alive without the people who were there for me during my lowest and darkest moments.

Things are not always perfect: there are still days when I feel like I cannot go on, days when even one simple task feels difficult because of how I feel, moments when everything feels impossible and nothing will ever go right. Moments when even the most light-hearted or well-intentioned comment can make me question myself and my worth. Sometimes the anxiety I feel can be too much that I don't want to leave the comfort of my room because it can cause me to panic and become too dizzy to even stand.

People might misinterpret people with mental health issues as being overdramatic or someone making excuses to get away from responsibility, which has happened to me at work. It's so hard to explain that there are days when what I feel can be too much for me to properly function. There are days when dealing with it daily can be so exhausting that I find myself envying people who have passed away because they are finally able to rest. Don't get me wrong, I love life and I love being alive and being surrounded by the people I love. I have my good days too. It's just that some days, what I feel can go beyond my control and things can be difficult.

For the most part, I power through what I feel, but it is so challenging that most of the time I feel exhausted at the end of the day. Some days are easier than others and for that I am grateful. I don't know if what I feel will ever go away. But with the help of friends and family who are there for me, I am doing fairly well. Being honest about what I have been going through with my family has also made a big difference and has resulted in me getting the support I need. I know some would say that people with issues like me probably lack enough faith in God. It's not about that. Mental health issues are types of illness... just like the various types of physical illness we experience. It's something that needs to be addressed and treated. Yes, prayer helps, but just like any physical disease, it needs the right approach and treatment. 

It’s a good thing that the country now has a Mental Health Law which can provide affordable mental health services to Filipinos. I think this is a step in the right direction in providing people who need help and the opportunity to heal. I hope that people can be made aware of this and can be encouraged to take advantage of this law to get the help they need. It’s hard enough to find doctors to help, it is also expensive to get help and pay for the medicine and/or therapy needed. I really hope that this law can help a lot of people and can make others aware of how we can help those who need our support. It may seem as simple as talking to someone and telling them that it'll be OK, but it's not always that way. Knowing how to approach a person to help, knowing, and being aware that there is a right approach, would mean a lot to those who need it the most. 

I hope that the step in the right direction with the Mental Health Law and the awareness that is being promoted by occasions such as this can be the way that many who suffer from mental health problems will be able to find solutions to help them to feel better.  

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