Photo and text by Kristine Chua
To have your suffering invalidated is an almost unbearable form of violence.
For the six million Filipinos who suffer from mental health disorders, it was a sucker punch to hear Joey De Leon treat their reality as his favorite genre of entertainment–comedy.
“Filipinos are still backwards in viewing mental illness,” said Marc Eric Reyes PhD, a clinical psychologist, during a panel discussion centered on raising awareness on mental health organized by the UP Psychology Society to celebrate National Mental Health Week.
“Which is why what Maine Mendoza did, when she shut down Joey de Leon and defended mental health, was an immensely powerful thing. Millions of people saw that,” Julia Maan̄o, a journalism student in UP Diliman, said.
Maan̄o was diagnosed with depression when she was only 13 years old. She mentioned that her mental health state can be traced from their family’s predisposition; her mother’s death nine years ago also contributed to it.
“I’ve sent too many apology emails to my professors na ‘sorry ang dami kong absent, daming kong missed deadlines,’” Maan̄o shared, explaining how the pressure at the university overwhelmed her.
Millions of Filipinos, however, suffer not only verbal invalidation but systemic as well.
Only about seven percent of all public and private hospitals in the Philippines have a psychiatric unit or ward. Up to now, mental health has not been included in any insurance packages offered by the government.
Filipinos may have to wait a couple more years for a health package that includes a little more sprinkle of support and care from the government.
Depiction in the media is another problem altogether.
“Media can make or break,” remarked Felicitas Soriano, MD, acting chief of Veterans Memorial Medical Center.
Inaccurate depictions of mental health on media can lead to further increasing the stigma that already exists. Media plays a major role in educating the public about the reality of mental health and how it affects the lives of those who suffer from it.
58-percent of the Philippine population are active social media users on a monthly basis, the 15th highest penetration rate in the world, the study said.
Television shows and movies such as 13 Reasons Why and Last Night received critique as they were said to contribute to the growing stigma that surrounds mental health. Hannah Baker, the main character in 13 Reasons Why, was bullied and assaulted when she was still alive. The show centered on how she left tapes for the people responsible for her suicide.
“13 Reasons Why also glamorizes suicide, with decorated lockers, pep rallies, students taking selfies by Hannah’s locker, mysterious packages, audio taped travel hunts, and even flashback scenes that keep Hannah “alive” in the series,” Psychology Today reports in a review of the controversial series.
“Mental health shouldn’t be exploited or commercialized,” Reyes said. People suffering from mental health illnesses should be portrayed more than their diagnoses, Jarvin Tan, RPh, the Director for Research at Youth for Mental Health Coalition said.
Likewise, Maaño said that private individuals and even media could battle stigma.
“Negativity should stop with you,” Reyes stressed. He advised everyone in the room to avoid posting or sharing negative content that can possibly harm or offend others.