Did you know that World Mental Health Day, an annual event held every October 10 to raise awareness on the challenges surrounding people struggling with mental health issues, has been observed globally for the past 27 years?
And yet we still have a way to go in acknowledging that mental health concerns—depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, and schizophrenia, to name a few—are legitimate and serious concerns that can be addressed and, for some, even cured with the proper diagnosis and treatment. (Read: On Mental Health: How to be a Light in the Dark)
Still, thanks to events like World Mental Health Day as well as various awareness campaigns and people bravely speaking up about their personal mental health experiences, society has started to keep an open mind toward this misunderstood and often neglected facet of our health and wellbeing.
My Pope reviews how far we’ve come in dealing with mental health issues.
Then: Mental health was a non-issue. You simply had to get over them.
Now: Mental health issues can now be addressed, thanks to a law.
“Specifically, it aims to provide mental health services at the barangay level, and integrate mental health and wellness programs in the grassroots level so that interventions will be felt by the communities. It also seeks to improve mental health facilities and to promote mental health education in schools and workplaces. Mechanisms for suicide intervention, prevention, and response strategies, with particular attention to the concerns of the youth, will be part of the national mental health program.”
According to mentalhealth.gov, mental health can be rooted in the following:
- Biological factors, such as genes, physical illness, injury, or brain chemistry
- Life experiences, such as trauma or a history of abuse
- Family history of mental health problems
As such, “getting over it” is not as easy—or even possible—without the support of professionals, medication, and the love and understanding of family and friends.
Then: Only “weirdos” suffer from mental health issues.
Now: Anybody can have mental health issues.
In these shores, noted psychologist Margarita “Margie” Holmes’ book Down to 1 features stories of accomplished individuals (herself included) suffering from depression: film directors Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes, fashion designer Patis Tesoro, and journalists Alya Honasan and Elizabeth Lolarga, among others. Recently, Cenacle sister Ma. Cecille Tuble wrote a revealing piece about her lengthy bout with major depressive disorder for the Inquirer.
In other words, no one is exempt from mental health illness. Everyone can have it and no one should be judged for it.
Then: Only weak ones seek professional help.
Now: Seeking professional help means you are proactive about your wellbeing.
Indeed, there is no shame in admitting that you have anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts—and that there is a need to see a trained professional, someone whom you are comfortable opening up to and who can help you do something about it.
Then: Medications mess up your body and brain.
Now: With proper diagnosis and prescription, medication can help.
Yes, people can react differently to the same medication, so if you feel something’s wrong, don’t just stop taking your meds—tell your doctor right away so he or she can adjust your intake, or prescribe an alternative.
Then: It is okay for people with mental health issues to turn in inferior work.
Now: Mental health illness isn’t a crutch. It’s not an excuse for you to bail on your responsibilities or life in general.
Like any health condition, your mental health issue can be addressed, managed, and, possibly even overcome. With the proper treatment and, more importantly, the right attitude, you can live life as a functional and productive member of society. (Read: 4 False Beliefs That Hold You Back From Being Your Best Self)