I ASKED a colleague what her thoughts are on a recent study spearheaded by the Department of Health, finding 30 percent of government workers suffering from mental health problems and needed to see psychiatrists.

The study revealed that the most common disorders found among government employees were depression and anxiety. Those plagued with it were those who have “less formal education” and “difficult family situations.” She echoed the result of the study and said there was basis in it.

Even before the study came out, I already have quite a few observations about some of the individuals who also work in the same institution that I am working with. But I thought this was pretty much the same with other offices. In my three-year stay in my present assignment, where majority of the populace are civilians, I have sometimes noticed that quite a few people are indeed problematic; others talk to themselves by their lonesome, while some talk and raise issues that are neither here or there.

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My colleague said there are several factors that contribute to the sad reality. She confirmed that yes, difficult family situations is among them. In fact, this colleague of mine is into that difficult family situation, too. She said the depression must have been because of other factors as well like low pay, peer pressure, slow promotion or none at all, among others.

This colleague, who is in her early 50s, for instance, is the mother of four adults and receives less than ten grand monthly. Of her four grown children, only one had completed college and is a single parent at that. Of her three undergraduate children, only one is in school; the two others have lost interest in school. For a parent to see a child plying the streets as a tricycle driver and another contented doing nothing at home, is disheartening. That parent would begin asking him or herself where they went wrong in raising her children.

Aside from taking care of the household expenses, she is also upset with the fact that her husband is out of work and does not exert efforts to help her. I do not know if she needs professional help, too. Recently, she broke down after her jobless husband went to our office to ask for money from her. I knew she had saved some money from the bonuses she got during the Christmas season and had wanted to use it for the amortization of their house. She did not want to give her husband that money because she knew it would just be spent on things that are not needed.

But she eventually gave in. She said if she would not, her husband would create a scene that would scandalize her because two years earlier, she experienced it and she does not want a repeat performance.

I would often tell her to take some time off and take care of herself because she has always been the one and the only one taking care of her family. She said she might consider it but would have to again save money for that.

On the other hand, maybe it also helps that we get to talk about her situation very often as we share the same area in our office. I have seen her cry, get really depressed but after quite a while, she bounces back to her usual self. I am not sure if she feels really better after confiding it out to people like me. I pity her and sometimes, I really take time to listen to her because I feel she has the world on her shoulders.

I do not say I am problem-free though but maybe getting a regular neuro-psychiatric evaluation as part of our annual physical examination helps in the assessment of our mental well-being.

Maybe it would help if the same is used on our counterparts to monitor (although taking the test on a regular basis is not a guarantee to address such problem) mental and psychological stability. At least, subjecting government workers to it would send warnings and help contain the problem from getting worse.

And probably the cheapest and most easily available way to the problem is lending one’s ear to individuals who have issues to deal with to make them feel a little better. We may not be shrinks but letting them know somebody listens and feels for them give them some relief.