“MENTAL health disorders rank third in the most common disabilities in the country, affecting 1 in 5 Filipino adults, just below hearing and visual disability.”
This alarming data from the World Health Organization was shared by Dr. Val Gonzales, the speaker during the recent parenting talk “Inside Out: Mental and Emotional Health Matter” organized by the Davao Christian High School Parents-Teachers Fellowship held at the DCHS V. Mapa auditorium.
Dr. Gonzales is an ordained minister and licensed counselor who specializes in dealing with depression, addiction, and co-occurring disorders. He holds a doctorate degree in Theology and is an academic dean/associate professor at the School of Counseling, Singapore Bible College.
In the Philippines, Dr. Gonzales shares that the top four mental illnesses are schizophrenia, substance abuse, anxiety, and depression.
With the growing cases of anxiety and depression in teens and young adults nowadys, he says parents should be vigilant and watch out for symptoms.
He said “anxiety is excessive worrying that is hard to control and occurs, more often than not, for at least six months. It is likewise associated with at least three of these symptoms (in children, only one symptom): restlessness; tiring easily; lack of concentration or feeling as though the mind goes blank; irritability; increased muscle aches or soreness; and difficulty speaking.”
In order to confirm someone as suffering from depression, “he or she must have 5 or more symptoms during the same 2-week period which include depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day; markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all; or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day; among others.”
Break the stigma
“Mental illness is the leprosy of these times. Before, leprosy was stigmatized so you got away from that person. Now, it’s mental illness that is stigmatized. And, a great part of this is because we have not been fully educated about this. We think it’s a curse; that it’s just faulty parenting. Hopefully, we will realize that there are so many contributing factors to mental illness,” reveals Dr. Gonzales.
As a community, Dr. Gonzales proposed that we should increase our level of awareness by organizing events like “Mental Health Week”.
He said people should be educated against spiritualizing mental illness. Instead, we should integrate spirituality with emotionality. “Don’t just say, “I’m going to pray for you”. Refer that person to a professional,” he added.
We should also promote self-care such as regular physical exercise, adequate sleep, healthy eating habits, and a balanced lifestyle. “Get 8 hours of sleep. Lesser than that, you become irritable. If you are irritable, you cannot think clearly and make wise decisions,” Dr. Gonzales said.
In addition, he said we need to identify high-risk individuals for potential help. Seek professional help when symptoms are observed especially when there is suicidality. “Don’t let that person be left by himself. Call the parents; inform the pastor, guidance counselor or teacher. Pay attention to that individual.”
“Moreover, establish support groups. They are an untapped resource that we need to develop and grow in our organizations,” he continues.
Dr. Gonzales likewise underscored the discovery and development of one’s God-given gifts. “The problem with many young people today is that they pursue careers that are not consistent with their giftedness. With career choice counseling, hopefully, people will do what they enjoy and like, and feel validated,” observed the father of two.
“We have to stop this idea that if we stop talking about mental illness, it will disappear. If we don’t talk about it, it will not disappear. We should talk about it because awareness precedes change. The more we are aware, the more we put ourselves in the position to make positive changes,” Dr. Gonzales said.
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