Experts in the field of mental health can never discount the importance of the family in looking after any of its members. Studies show that family relationships can have both short- and long-term effects on one’s mental health and even physical health. The impact, whether positive or negative, depends largely on the kind or nature of these relationships.
However, most are unaware of how to spot and recognize if there is a problem, especially if the family member is not willing to open up and admit going through difficulties. Thus, it is important for the family to pay extra close attention to the early signs, especially if it’s the first time that a family member is suffering from mental health issues.
In the Philippines, the Department of Health said that around 3.3 million Filipinos suffer from depressive disorders, while the suicide rate is at 2.5 males and 1.7 females per 100,000 persons.
As part of its advocacy on mental health and in line with the World Mental Health Day celebration, Globe Telecom held the latest in a series of #StartANewDay webinars entitled “Let’s Talk About Mental Health: Family’s Role in One’s Mental Health.”
It included an impressive lineup of panel speakers such as Dr. Anna Cristina Tuazon, PsyD., RPsy, CSCLP, from the University of the Philippines – Diliman; Jean Goulbourn, president and founder of the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation; motivational speaker and mental health advocate Ari Verzosa; and multi-awarded actress, celebrity and mental health and body positivity advocate Iza Calzado.
Dr. Tuazon said parents have to learn to adapt, be flexible, tolerate ambiguity and uncertainty, including frustration and distress, accept and express emotions, and cope with stressors or problems. They also need to be both firm and supportive by being authoritative and permissive parents as well.
She noted some red flags that would indicate a problem like thoughts of death or dying, of hurting one’s self or others, hallucinations, distorted beliefs, and thinking. Children, she noted, will not say that they are lonely or sad, but will manifest physical symptoms like headaches or stomach aches, fatigue, anger, irritability, grouchiness, or even excessive dependence on video games.
So how can parents help? Dr. Tuazon said they should avoid being punitive or sanction-oriented, be unafraid to start a conversation, never make promises they can’t keep but try to accommodate, show they can also be good examples of how to cope with anxiety, and that it’s ok to talk about feelings. “If talking things over among each other doesn’t seem to work, it’s time to ask for professional help. Just don’t wait until it’s too late,” she said.
Goulbourn, who lost her own daughter Natasha due to overmedication for depression, echoed Dr. Tuazon’s observations. She said parents have to be observant and very understanding of their children’s emotions, even their mood swings, exercise compassion, and find out what’s wrong through play.
She said the calls they receive through the NGF hotline to seek assistance against suicidal thoughts have increased, especially during the quarantine period. Family problems emerged as the top reason for suicide due to family violence, alcoholism, and drugs. She cited relationship problems, depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety and despair, stress, gender issue, loss of jobs/unemployment, asking for referral or inquiry as among the top reasons for calling the HOPELINE in 2019.
She also called on companies to invest to take care of the mental health needs of their employees, how they can cope with this pandemic while in the workplace, even if working from home.
For his part, Verzosa pointed out that a smiling face doesn’t always mean the person is happy. Deep inside the person may be suffering from emotional anguish, especially for guys, who are supposed to be strong, and who may think that crying is a sign of weakness.
Also, he reminded parents to keep an open line of communication and freely talk about mental health issues or even joke about it in the family. “Get to know your children, even their close friends. Ideally, parents are the main support group, but also get to know your children’s friends, whom they confide to if the parents are not open, and get to be friends with their children as well.”
On the other hand, Calzado said that self-awareness is important for those who help others but end up neglecting themselves. “Perhaps meditation can help, or writing a personal journal. Find out what will work best for you, assess where you are, your lifestyle, your well-being. Prioritize yourself. It is not about being selfish.”
Globe promotes mental health in the country through its various programs and is committed to supporting 10 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals including UNSDG No. 3 on Good Health and Well-being.
One of its initiatives, Hope Bank, is a safe online space for everyone to openly express their feelings and thoughts about mental health. It seeks to empower those undergoing emotional and mental challenges caused by Covid-19 and to boost the morale of frontliners and patients including their families and friends. To contribute, members can just post messages using the hashtag #StartANewDay both on their personal profiles and in the group. These can be through photos, artworks, quotes, song lyrics, poems, videos, or anything that expresses hope and positivity.
Globe also partnered with organizations like UP Diliman Psychosocial Services (UPD PsycServ) and New Good Feelings (NGF) Mindstrong’s HOPELINE 2919 for free counseling or psychotherapy services for frontliners, Covid-19 patients and their relatives.
For more about Globe Telecom, visit www.globe.com.ph.