EVERYONE is affected by the outbreak of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) one way or another. Office work schedules were disrupted, domestic and international travels were cancelled, school days and even graduation ceremony rites were put on hold.
For many of us, including myself, life has been stressful. I worry about my own health, my family, my siblings, and my community. I worry about our supply of food, hand sanitizers/alcohol, and other basic needs. But I know I need to handle my fear and anxiety properly. I need to cope with this stress for the people I care about, and for my community.
But how about those people who already have mental health problems? How can we help them in these challenging times? Unfortunately, in our context, when we talk about mental illness, our families and communities consider it as a taboo. Families do not want to be known to have a “crazy” sibling or child.
In Maguindanao, mental health illness has something to do with how individuals interact with the unseen or the jinns. A person is described as “gandidilipat” (prone for errors), “ga among-amongan” (spirits enters their mind), and “pedtunungan” (exorcise). The cure for this is the traditional way of talking to the unseen and offering peace and coexistence with them.
In some cases, I’ve seen how children and adults are ostracized because of their mental illness. It is different when we see a child or adult who are suffering from terminal illnesses, such as cancer. They are always embraced with love, empathy, and support.
It is a given fact that “no one is spared” from the possibility of suffering from mental illness. Studies have shown that this can cut across all professions and ages. We need to educate our families and communities to see the gravity of mental illness so that it can be addressed properly.
We need to help those people with pre-existing mental health conditions. They should continue with their treatment and be aware of new or worsening symptoms because of the government’s actions in combating Covid-19, like the enhanced community quarantine. Their families should also support them, either through listening to them or giving the proper intervention.
In these challenging times, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention provides for the following tips in handling our stress and anxiety:
• Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
• Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
• Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
• Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
The Department of Health also issued an advisory that says “It’s okay not to be okay. Feeling sad or anxious is normal during a health emergency or crisis.” If you are, do not hesitate to call 0917-899-USAP (8727) or 989-USAP (8727). This way, we can all come through this Covid-19 pandemic as stronger, more resilient people.