Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Youth groups ask candidates to prioritize mental health

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL. Bacolod City Lone District Representative Greg Gasataya (center), Akbayan Youth representative Charisse Erinn Flores (right), and Louie Raner, convenor of Youth for Mental Health Bacolod, sign the joint declaration committing to work together in pushing mental health as a priority. (Photo by Merlinda A. Pedrosa)

BACOLOD City Lone District Rep. Greg Gasataya, Akbayan Youth, and the Youth for Mental Health Inc. in Bacolod have signed a joint declaration committing to work together in prioritizing mental health and addressing the problem among the youth.

The joint declaration was signed by Gasataya; Louie Raner, convenor of the Youth for Mental Health Bacolod; and Charisse Erinn Flores, representative of Akbayan Youth, at the Nonna’s Kitchen restaurant in Bacolod on Saturday, March 23.

They said that they saw the urgency and the need to educate people, especially the media, in removing the stigma on mental health issues especially on specific disorders.

“We have realized that there is a need to address the issue. The Department of Health, as quoted in news outlets, say that 3.3 million Filipinos suffer from depressive disorders with suicide rates of 2.5 for males and 1.7 for females per 100,000. Given the stigma attached to people with mental health, these figures might have been higher, only that people are afraid to be called buangit (crazy) or wimp,” they said.

Based on the general reactions from the public, stories of suicides are outright dismissed, or worse, sensationalized sometimes by the media or the netizens, with very little regard for lives and families of those affected.

“Having realized these realities, we vow to work together to initiate campaigns to raise awareness among youth and students on mental health, welcome and encourage proactive initiatives to provide better health care for people with mental health issues,” they said.

They also vowed to be actively involved in measures to remove the stigma of mental health in both mainstream and social media, and generate awareness on the causes of suicide, depression, and other mental health issues.

“We strongly feel that there is need to merge our efforts to create a better world for the youth, as mental health is as important as physical health and fitness,” they said.

With just days away from the start of the campaign period for local positions, Raner said they appealed to all candidates to make mental health an agenda in their platforms.

We are encouraged by the initiative of Congressman Gasataya in passing House Bill 6768 that seeks to improve mental health services in colleges and universities in the country,” he said.

Raner said this is a welcome move coming from a local official who has seen the need to improve mental health services among the youth and students as the cases continue to rise.

The Youth for Mental Health Inc. Bacolod also committed to help gather hyperlocal ground data by conducting its own research in Bacolod and Negros Occidental.

“We hope that these data will be considered valuable input by Gasataya in strengthening House Bill 6768,” Raner said.

He said they will conduct an awareness and education campaign among youth and students on mental health.

“Mental illness happens in the quiet recesses of our minds. We are often alone. Don’t leave the youth,” he added.

For his part, Gasataya said that HB 6768 was already approved at the committee level last year.

“I’m thankful to our youth leaders for initiating this kind of advocacy to help those who need mental health services,” he said.

Gasataya also urged all the parents to listen to the problems of their children to avoid any untoward incidents.


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