Editorial: Responding to mental health

COMPLEX CASE. Mental health interventions must address multiple social, psychological and biological factors leading to poor mental health, such as “rapid social change, stressful work conditions, gender discrimination, social exclusion, unhealthy lifestyle, physical ill health and human rights violations,” points out the WHO. (File Foto)

PROMOTING mental health involves more than treating mental disorders, points out the World Health Organization (WHO).

The prominence of reports on suicides and suicide attempts has focused the public’s attention on only an aspect of mental health. It is crucial for public and private stakeholders to view more holistically mental health as a priority deserving intersectoral consultations and interventions to “promote, protect, and restore mental health,” urged the WHO.

The WHO is promoting four key messages on mental health.

“Mental health is more than the absence of mental disorders.” Mental health issues, such as suicide, increasingly occupy significant media space, including, in recent years, the digital sphere.

This open discussion of mental health is crucial for informing and educating the public, particularly for creating sympathy and empathy for those struggling with their mental health.

However, one of the major challenges facing society is countering and dispelling the prejudice and judgment directed at those dealing with mental health problems.

The prominence of mental disorders in traditional and new media should be enhanced through better understanding of and sensitivity to mental disorders, respecting the rights of persons suffering mental disorders and their families.

Journalists and netizens must anticipate the consequences of their reportage or discussions about suicide, dementia, substance abuse-related disorders, and mental health issues affecting children and other youths.

Media coverage of the suicides and suicide attempts occurring at the bridges connecting the cities of Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu have pushed authorities to station a team of “anti-suicide cops” in the vicinity. The Mandaue City Government has also ordered the tanods of barangays near the bridges to be on the watch for persons manifesting distress.

The Mandaue City Police Office cops spotted, calmed down, and talked out two persons, aged 16 and 28, from making separate attempts to jump from the bridges on the evening of Aug. 18 and Aug. 21, reported Arvie N. Veloso of SunStar Superbalita Cebu and Kevin A. Lagunda of SunStar Cebu.

Earlier in the day of Aug. 18, the body of a student, 16, was floating in the Mactan Channel. The student’s jump from the Marcelo Fernan bridge was recorded by a security camera. Prior to these incidents, there were other suicides and suicide attempts happening at the bridges.

On the other hand, it is hoped that the focus on suicides and suicide attempts can trigger stakeholders to initiate sustained programs that promote mental health, not just address mental disorders. As the WHO stresses, “Mental health is determined by a range of socioeconomic, biological and environmental factors.”

Last May 2019, a Family Support Group (FSG) was initiated by the Philippine Mental Health Association Cordillera Chapter Inc. (PMHACCI) to “empower” caregivers and relations of persons with mental illness to “understand and care better for their client-family members and equip them with positive coping skills and create a supportive atmosphere among the FSG members,” reported SunStar Baguio’s Maria Elena Catajan on May 21.

Families, schools, workplaces and communities must be educated to offer support to persons coping with factors threatening mental health. As the WHO established, poverty and the resulting socio-economic pressures present risks to mental health.

“The clearest evidence (of mental health risk) is associated with sexual violence,” according to the WHO.

Only by adopting a holistic approach to mental health that addresses this complex web of triggers and consequences can public and private stakeholders uphold and protect mental health. As the WHO stresses, “Mental health is an integral part of health; indeed, there is no health without mental health.”


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