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In recent years, mental health has become one of the biggest public health concerns in the Philippines. The World Health Organization revealed that the suicide rate for men in the country is 5.2, and 2.3 for women per 100,000 people.1
Despite these alarming statistics, mental health issues continue to take a backseat in the lives of many people, and the most vulnerable sectors are the poor and the young.
But why is this the case?
Philippines’ colonial history has largely contributed to our unique culture, and one of the main cultural beliefs of people is that depression and anxiety, as well as other mental illnesses, are something people should be ashamed of, or worse, completely nonexistent.
Additionally, Filipino culture emphasizes humor and resilience over getting help which makes it even more difficult to talk about mental illnesses in public.
Although there’s the Mental Health Act and Universal Health Care Law2 in the country, only a meager 14.12 percent of the healthcare budget goes towards mental health (P615 million, or P5.69 per Filipino).3 And despite the education about mental health issues becoming stronger on social media, there are still only 0.41 psychiatrists and 7.76 hospital beds per 100,000 people.
This dismaying ratio is even lower compared to other Asian countries like Indonesia and Malaysia.4
To know more about mental health in the country, we’ve compiled this useful guide to help you.
What is Mental Health?
Mental health refers to a person’s emotional, cognitive, and behavioral wellbeing. It covers how people behave, think, and feel. Mental health can affect many aspects of a person’s life such as their physical health, relationships with other people, and productivity at work, among many others. At all stages of a person’s life, mental health is very important.
Types of Mental Health Problems
Mental health disorders can either be occasional or chronic. There are close to 300 mental disorders included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a handbook used by professionals to diagnose mental illness. Here are the most common types.
This type of mental health makes people experience fear and apprehension. Although many experience anxiety as a normal stress response during specific life events like interviewing for a new job, people with anxiety disorders feel them even during non-stressful life events. Anxiety is a blanket term that includes the following disorders:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD
- Generalized anxiety disorder or GAD
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD
- Social anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
Although it’s completely normal to experience mood swings, people who are living with mood disorder experience severe and persistent symptoms that prevent them from doing daily activities.
Depending on the specific disorder a person has, they can experience feelings of hopelessness, decreased energy, low self-esteem, and sadness, among many others. Mood disorders include:
- Bipolar disorder
- Major depression
- Substance-induced mood disorder
This type of mental health illness affects a person’s relationship with food. People with eating disorders develop unhealthy eating habits, as well as an obsession with their weight. The most common eating disorders include:
- Bulimia nervosa
- Anorexia nervosa
- Binge eating disorder
- Rumination disorder
- Avoidant or restrictive food intake disorder
Most people think dementia is just a single disorder, but it covers many mental health issues. People with dementia-related problems experience a decline in cognitive abilities which can impair their day-to-day life. The forms of dementia include the following:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Huntington’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Frontotemporal dementia
- Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome
People who have this disorder have trouble differentiating what is real and what is not. Their sense of reality may be altered because of trauma, drug abuse, and stress. The common kinds of psychotic disorders are:
- Delusional disorder
- Brief psychotic disorder
Causes of Mental Illness
The exact causes of mental illness are still not known. However, research points to one or combination of the following factors:
Mental illness can run in families. This means that people who have a family member that has a mental illness are more likely to develop it. A lot of researchers believe that mental disorders are linked to gene abnormality, and it occurs from the interaction of genes, as well as other factors.
Long-term alcohol or drug abuse is linked to paranoia, depression, and anxiety.
When the development of a person’s early fetal brain is disrupted, or trauma happens at the time of birth such as loss of oxygen to the brain, this can be the cause of certain conditions.
When a person lives in a stressful environment, they are more likely to develop mental illness. Some examples include living with abusive people, or in poverty.
Even if a person is no longer living in a stressful environment, previous trauma, especially those that happened in childhood, can still trigger mental health disorders during adulthood.
Losing a family member or close friend, or being involved in an accident, among other stressful events, is linked to the development of depression.
Signs of Mental Disorder
Major mental illnesses do not just develop instantly. Most people experience small changes in their day-to-day life or signs that something is not quite right.
Here are the early warning signs of mental illness you should know about:
- Excessive paranoia, anxiety, or worry
- Constant irritability
- Long-lasting sadness
- Social withdrawal
- Dramatic eating pattern changes
- Changes in sleeping pattern
- Extreme mood changes
- A decline in personal care
- Disorganized speech or talking about things that don’t make sense
- Delusions and hallucinations
- Problems thinking
- Illogical thinking
- Increased sensitivity
- Decreased productivity
- Feeling disconnected
- Suicidal thinking
Keep in mind that these signs and symptoms can vary depending on the mental disorder that a person is suffering from, and how severe their condition is.
Why is Mental Health Important?
Just like how physical fitness enables your body to stay strong, good mental health can also help you achieve and sustain a better life.
When people are mentally healthy, they can build better connections and maximize their potential. More than that, good mental health can help people cope with challenging situations in their professional and personal life.
Mental health is also vital to your physical health since suffering from mental disorders can increase your risk for health problems such as:
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
Common Mental Health Issues & Disorders in the Philippines
According to WHO1, the most frequent diagnosis in the Philippines is schizophrenia2.
When this serious and chronic brain disorder is active, its symptoms include:
- Having trouble thinking
- Lack of motivation
- Disorganized speech
Schizophrenia has five subtypes which include:
- Catatonic (speechlessness, unusual postures, and rigidity)
- Disorganized (disorganized behavior and speech)
- Paranoid (hallucinations and delusions that have a theme)
- Undifferentiated (symptomatic symptoms, but not as intense as other types)
- Residual (symptoms that allow normal functioning, although these people can still experience negative symptoms)
Most schizophrenia symptoms and its likelihood of recurrence will improve with treatment. Unfortunately, many people still do not understand this mental disorder and falsely believe that it is the same thing as multiple personality disorder.
People who are suffering from schizophrenia are not violent or dangerous, as shown in mainstream media with movies such as A Beautiful Mind, Shutter Island, or Black Swan.
The second most diagnosed mental health problem in the Philippines is mood disorders, which include all types of bipolar disorders and depression. This is a very serious condition because mood disorders can cause suicidal thoughts, wishing to die, or even planning for death. Call a health provider right away if you or someone you know is experiencing this.
On the other hand, it is more common with outpatient facilities to receive patients with diagnoses of neurotic disorders, and substance abuse compared to inpatient facilities and mental hospitals.
7 Tips for Improving Mental Health
Nurturing one’s mental health will help people combat mental health. Here’s how you can improve your mental health.
1. Eat right
Making good nutritional choices can have an incredible effect on your mental health. According to a report by the UK Mental Health Foundation3, poor diet has played a role in the increase of mental health problems in the past 50 years.
According to the report, eating less produce, and consuming more sugars, saturated fats, and substances such as trans-fats and additives can prevent proper brain functioning.
When you pay more attention to your food and fill your plate with nutritious ingredients that are healthy for your brain, you will experience better mental health. Aside from that, consuming vitamins can also speed up chemical processes that are vital for brain function. Usually, deficiencies can cause mood swings, agitation, and physical problems.
Here are the different foods you can eat to improve your mental health:
- Whole grains
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids like eggs, fish, and nuts
2. Make face to face interaction a priority
These days, social media has taken over the lives of people. However, forging new connections and strengthening the relationships you already have can boost your mood better. Although online interaction is helpful, it can give you a false sense of connectedness.
As much as you can, schedule in-person time with your friends and family. It doesn’t have to take up most of your day. Even a 20-minute coffee date will do wonders.
Face to face interactions also reduce the risk of depression, according to a 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.4
Note: Do not forget to exercise physical distancing measures and wear your mask.
3. Stay active
Exercising and staying active is not only great for your physical health but also your mental health. Regular activities can help you sleep better, relieve stress, and even improve your memory. Because of this, physical activity has been included in many treatment plans for anxiety and depression.5
While exercising will not completely cure your disorder, it can do wonders for mild to moderate depression. People who exercise are also less likely to abuse alcohol and drugs and overeat.
4. Examine your senses
Does watching movies make you happier? Does listening to your favorite album make you feel calmer? Do you feel more at ease when you’re walking around the beach?
Every person responds to sensory input uniquely. Try to see which activity you love best, and do it.
Additionally, prioritize leisure time. Contemplate, forget about your worries, and pay attention to all the positive things you are experiencing. Writing it down even helps. Then, you can reflect on these things if you need a mood boost.
5. Notice the way you talk to yourself
Sometimes, people get so caught up in how they talk to other people that they forget they are being mean to themselves.
Always practice positive and supportive self-talk.6 When you feel doubts and negative emotions coming, consciously talk to yourself in a positive light. Affirm that you are smart, loved, and capable.
6. Sleep well
Sleep matters more than most people think. As much as you can, try to stay away from your phone or computer two hours before bedtime because the blue light it emits can restrain your body’s production of melatonin that is in charge of your sleep-wake cycle.7
When you skimp on sleep, your body won’t have enough time to recover from stress, and you’ll face your day without a heavy cloud looming over your head.
7. Get Help
This is the most important tip.
If you are noticing the signs of mental health disorder in your life and it’s preventing you from becoming your best self, seek help. Start by talking to a trusted friend, or better yet, seek the help of a professional.
Mental illnesses are a legitimate health concern. It’s not just in your head, and there’s no shame in seeking help.
Positive & Inspiring Mental Health Quotes
Sometimes, people are afraid to talk about mental health problems because of the stigma that surrounds them.
However, even famous people are not immune to this. We’ve rounded up quotes about mental health below that will make you realize how important your mental health is.
“There is hope, even when your brain tells you there isn’t.”
― John Green
“I think it’s really important to take the stigma away from mental health… My brain and my heart are really important to me. I don’t know why I wouldn’t seek help to have those things be as healthy as my teeth?”– Kerry Washington
“Mental health problems don’t define who you are. They are something you experience. You walk in the rain and you feel the rain, but, importantly, you are not the rain.”– Matt Haig
“Promise me you’ll always remember — you’re braver than you believe and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”– Christopher Robin from Winnie the Pooh
“I was with someone recently who asked: ‘Well, don’t you think that if you do too much therapy it will take away your artistic process?’ And I told them: ‘The biggest lie that we’ve ever been sold is that we as artists have to stay in pain to create.’”— Katy Perry
“If we start being honest about our pain, our anger, and our shortcomings instead of pretending they don’t exist, then maybe we’ll leave the world a better place than we found it.”– Russell Wilson
“Now that I was famous, I was afraid I would never find somebody again to love me for me. I was afraid of making new friends. Then one day my mom said: ‘Why do you think a person wouldn’t love you? Don’t you know how smart and sweet and beautiful you are?’ That’s when I decided I only have two choices: I can give up, or I can go on.”– Beyonce
“The advice I’d give to somebody that’s silently struggling is, you don’t have to live that way. You don’t have to struggle in silence. You can be un-silent. You can live well with a mental health condition, as long as you open up to somebody about it, because you must share your experience with people so that you can get the help that you need.”– Demi Lovato
“What I would tell kids going through anxiety, which I have and can relate to, is that you’re so normal. Everyone experiences a version of anxiety or worry in their lives, and maybe we go through it differently or more intensely for longer periods, but there’s nothing wrong with you. To be a sensitive person that cares a lot, that takes things in a deep way is part of what makes you amazing… I wouldn’t trade it for the world, even when there are really hard times. Don’t ever feel like you’re a weirdo for it because we’re all weirdos.”– Emma Stone
“I can slip in and out of depression quite easily. I had really bad postpartum depression after I had my son. It frightened me and I didn’t talk to anyone about it. I was very reluctant…Four of my friends felt the same way I did, and everyone was too embarrassed to talk about it.”– Adele
Where to Find Mental Health Help & Counseling in the Philippines
When you’re experiencing emotional or mental distress, you can turn to a mental health counselor. These people can offer you support, advice, and most importantly, a safe space where you can talk about the problems you are struggling with.
They can also help you understand your feelings, and learn more about your mental health condition.
Here’s a list of organizations in the Philippines that offer counseling services, and their contact numbers. You can call these numbers anytime, and they would never judge you for what you are going through.
Mental Health PH
Since 2016, this organization has been building mentally healthier communities around the country by increasing awareness about mental health and empowering Filipinos to support others and themselves.
Their directory of mental health facilities, organizations, and services around the Philippines is worth checking out.
24/7 Crisis hotline: 0917 899 8227
Philippine Mental Health Association
PMHA provides a myriad of services including education, advocacy, and research development, as well as clinical and intervention services. They also facilitate easy access to mental health services to inspire people to overcome their struggles.
Send them a message on Facebook
Address: 18 East Ave, Diliman, Quezon City, 1100 Metro Manila
- 0917 565 2036
- (02) 8921 4958
- (02) 8921 4959
DOH National Center for Mental Health
The premier national health policy-maker and regulatory institution in the country has a national crisis hotline that you can call anytime.
Luzon landline toll-free: 1553
Smart, Sun, & Talk N Text subscribers: 0908 639 2672
TM and Globe:
- 0966 351 4518
- 0917 899 8727
- 0917 899 USAP
Hopeline Ph is a non-governmental mental health service that provides 24/7 suicide prevention and crisis support.
Message them on Facebook
Toll-free for Globe and TM: 2919
This organization believes that geographic and financial barriers prevent people from getting the mental health care they need, so they make it easier for people to find mental health resources.
Landline: (02) 8893-7603
Globe and Sun: 0917 800 1123
They also have a thorough list of national suicide and crisis lines in the Philippines here.
Check out Silakbo’s database of mental health resources and hotlines here. This list by Globe is also helpful for those looking for ways to get mental health support without leaving their home.
With approximately 10 million individuals living in poverty, the Philippines has a large population of people with mental health problems. Sixty-five percent of those who have been diagnosed with mental health disorders reported psychological stress as its root cause.
In addition to these societal factors, other risk factors for developing a mental illness include drug use, physical abuse during childhood, and exposure to high levels of combat trauma. In order to provide better care to those men and women living with a chronic psychiatric illness, it is imperative that solutions be found for the complex issues that underlie their conditions – including economic difficulty – through an integrated approach involving various sectors of society.