MAJORITY of the finalists for the Mutya ng Dabaw Pageant this year seek to improve mental health awareness.

The ladies who were able to make it to the top 15 bared their different advocacies in Thursday's (March 8) edition of the I-Speak media forum held at Davao City Hall Conference Room.

Among the 15, four candidates expressed their intention to campaign for mental health awareness.

Charmaine Rose Ledesma, candidate number six, said she wants to raise awareness on depression among Dabawenyos.

"I want them to be aware that it is okay to have depression. We are here to support. We want to help and we are here to assist them if ever they need help. Because of that, I would also like to promote good mental habits because once we practice good mental habits, we will be able to function properly and with that we will be able to live our lives to the fullest," Ledesma said.

Irish Jule Escalicas, candidate number eight, said as a psychology graduate, she thinks that part of her responsibilities is to bring awareness on the different mental health illnesses and reach out those who are suffering from it.

"I am trying to bring the mental health illnesses outside the confines of a mental institution and also aside from that, I would want to consciously reach out to those who suffer from mental health illnesses such as drug abuse, schizophrenia, and the most common, depression, this will be an initiative for me to save lives," Escalicas said.

Cindy Pauline Benedicto, candidate number 10, suggested normalizing the topic of mental health on communities would be of great help.

"I think there is still a notion that mental illness does not exist but I think that...normalizing this topic around our community will not only encourage people who are diagnosed with mental illness to talk about it [but also] to ask for the help that they need; to say that they are not okay; and they do not feel ok. We've already lost beautiful souls because of this illness and my advocacy is that we won't lose more," Benedicto said.

Candidate number 16, Micah Benedicto, said that as one of the representatives of the Davao Region to the very first national youth congress for mental health, she wanted to break barriers and bridge the gap in talking about mental health.

She said she wants to actively help the Davao City Government in bringing dialogues to the youth and bringing the message that having mental health issues does not equate to being crazy.

"Mental health is the whole being of a person. It is how you deal your day to day activities the stress in school, in work, when we talk about mental health it is as important as our physical health," Benedicto said.

Aside from mental health, environmental management was also the prime advocacies of some finalists.

Dana Gabriel Tautho, candidate number four, said she seeks to promote solid waste diversion under ecological waste management.

She said that since her father was an environment consultant, she had seen different types and means of environmental management.

Pamela Framil, candidate number 14, said she seeks to advocate conservation of the environment through beach clean-up drive and tree planting.

Having been a mountain climber for two years, Framil said her willingness to conserve the environment started when she was introduced to mountaineering societies.

"When I was introduced to mountaineering societies, I was really inspired of their passion on environmental conservation and protection and I think I want for the youth to enjoy activities of this kind," she said.

Some candidates also stated their advocacies on prevention of cervical cancer, good moral and right conduct in social media, programs to help parents of the cancer patients, equal rights of persons with disabilities, programs for the drug surrenderers, and self-awareness.

The 15 candidates were selected last March 7 at Abreeza Ayala mall, and the coronation night is slated on March 15 at Rizal Memorial Colleges FilOil Flying V Event Center.