Editorial: Saving a life

MAD WORLD. Contrary to popular stereotypes of raving lunatics and illegal drug dependents running amok, mental health risks confront everyone, including those seemingly untouched by deprivation or self-doubt. (File Foto)

MENTAL wellness involves everyone, even the non-human.

Last Oct. 10, the World Health Organization (WHO) campaigned to bring global attention to the crucial message for World Mental Health Day 2019: suicide prevention.

“Every 40 seconds, someone loses (his or her) life to suicide,” according to

The WHO campaign involved “40 seconds of action” that everyone—teachers, employers, health workers, and emergency responders—can do to prevent suicide.

In a video running approximately for 40 seconds that the WHO uploaded on its official website, principals and school administrators need to put in place a mental health plan that covers vulnerable students, teachers, and staff overwhelmed by personal, family, and academic pressures.

“A few words can make a world of difference” encapsulates the ideal culture that creates a safe haven of compassion and concern for persons who are considering to end their life or commit self-harm, asserts the WHO online video, “Preventing Suicide: Information for Teachers”.

Last Oct. 4, the University of the Philippine (UP) Diliman circulated among constituents a memorandum detailing guidelines on mental health and psychosocial support.

“Listen to the person in distress” is the first step listed in the guidelines, which includes information on how to assess whether a situation is an emergency or one that does not require immediately summoning responders but nevertheless demanding appropriate responses to help the person.

Opening up and training members of the community to recognize and respond to persons vulnerable to suicide is essential for countering the stigma associated with “craziness”. According to the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH)’s 2016 report, “Asia Pacific Mental Health Integration Index,” the Philippines ranked 12th in a list of 15 countries with effective policies and programs in mental health.

In the same report, the WFMH pointed out that increasingly more people are affected by depression, and there is a link between the physical and the mental making up a person’s complete sense of well-being.

While health professionals and emergency responders are the best-trained persons to respond during suicide emergencies, keeping a high-risk person company is an “ordinary act” any person must do in an emergency.

According to the UP Diliman guidelines, a person exhibiting agitation, physical or verbal aggression, and attempts at self-injury merits emergency responses. However, persons categorized as moderate or low risk still need the help of a mental health professional.

The challenge is to listen to and be sensitive with those who may not overtly show suicidal intentions or plans but are vulnerable to or silently struggling with depression, hopelessness, and a desire to harm oneself.

Last Feb. 12, UP Diliman launched a program to have “support dogs” mingle with students. Vaccinated and affectionate Asong Pinoy (AsPin) Cotton and Tisay were introduced to students, faculty, and staff at the College of Mass Communication (CMC) and the Quezon Hall.

Even before the introduction of Cotton, the CMC students, faculty, and staff already nurtured several cats that offer unconditional emotional support, specially during the cycles of academic stress and pressure, such as final exams and deadlines.

Animals acting as “stress buffers” is attested by clinical tests. In 2016, for instance, the results of a University of Florida laboratory-validated test showed that 101 children aged seven to 12 years showed lower-cortisol response when the participants were allowed to be near to or pet their dogs. Cortisol is the hormone secreted by the body responding to stress or danger.

Kindness, whether human or non-human, can be the 40 seconds needed to save a life.


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