Monday, July 26, 2021

Editorial: Same storm, different boat

Editorial Cartoon by Ariel Itumay

A netizen captures on video an ensuing fist fight between a traffic marshall and a motorist in the middle of the road in a business park. In a social media post later, the Cebu City Transportation Office (CCTO) explained that the motorcycle-for-hire driver was piqued by the apprehending enforcer who found him violating a “No Stopping Anytime” sign. “Walang personalan,” the CCTO advised, saying that an apprehension for a traffic violation is not an assault on one’s person, but merely an enforcement of the law.

This recent kung-fu match is only the latest of the street brawls that have gone viral on social media. Similar incidents have attracted netizens in the past few months, of individuals who simply lost it—jumping off high bridges, engaging cops in fistfights, hammering glass doors of restaurants. One can even count curfew violators in bars; they could be claustrophobes seeking air after a long pandemic.

In May this year, the Department of Health reported that at least 3.6 million Filipinos are battling mental health issues. Around 1.14 million have depression, 847,000 are in alcohol-use disorders, while 520,000 with bipolar disorder. The figures, only coming from reported cases, only hint of how worse the real situation is.

The health department also noted an increasing number of calls in its mental health hotline. Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said, “Around 31 percent (of calls in April) are about anxiety and depressive symtoms, and 22 percent referrals to psychiatrists and psychologists.” In the first two months this year, the crisis hotline logged a monthly average of 289 suicide-related calls. The well-being organization called MindNation, on the other hand, also noted that Filipino workers rated their mental wellness at work at 6.5 in the pandemic, down from eight before the health crisis.

An overwhelming onslaught of fear from Covid-19 and frustration from jobs losses for many Filipinos have caused emotional and mental shitstorm on their person. As this happens, there is also a sector of citizens who continue to thrive despite the crisis. Frances Prescilla Cuevas, chief health program office of the DOH’s Disease Prevention and Control Bureau, said, “We are in the same storm, but we are not on the same boat.”

Meanwhile, this week, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Central Visayas launched “WiSupport Project,” a technology-based mental health help platform, composing of channels such as emails, mobile applications, SMS messaging, website interactions, among others. These tools close the gap between individuals who need mental health support and counselors.

“There are many types of mental health care providers who diagnose and treat mental illnesses. But DSWD, as a social welfare agency, offers free help for everyone in the community by determining what type of intervention an individual or family might need by providing referral pathways,” said Antonio Dolaota, DSWD 7 assistant director for administration.

The DSWD program targets repatriated overseas Filipino workers, employees in flexible work arrangements and individuals and families in distress.

The takeaway in all these is that mental health problems have likewise reached pandemic proportions, and that recent fist fight incident might just be a glimpse into the problem. Depression and anxiety, as the DOH noted, have caused absenteeism, resignations, paralysis, inefficiency among workers. It is about time employers addressed this problem among their workers as mental health is essential to productivity. It is, ultimately, an economic problem as well.


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