Oct 05, 2022
Has someone asked you that question lately? Or have you dared ask that question to someone you love? Probably not. That’s because talking about mental health, unfortunately, isn’t an everyday conversation.
Expressing concern to a friend or a family member about his or her mental wellbeing can take courage. It also takes empathy. And it can feel tough or awkward to open up.
“I wish someone had asked me about the state of my mental health 10 years ago,” IT expert Richard Caballero told me in a Zoom interview. “I could have done something about it, and prevented the harrowing experience I had while on a business trip in Brazil.”
Caballero was at the lounge of Guarulhos International Airport in São Paulo, Brazil, when he started to hyperventilate. His heart was racing. He was having an anxiety attack.
“I’ve traveled numerous times before, but I never felt this way,” Caballero shared. “I was sweating profusely. And so, the medics brought me to the emergency room of a nearby hospital. They had to keep me overnight.”
Caballero was the vice president of a global software company, doing business in over 50 countries around the globe. His job was physically and mentally taxing, to say the least.
“I wasn’t getting enough sleep with the jet lag — and stress — which I just shrugged off all these years,” adds Caballero. “What happened to me in Brazil 10 years ago was a wakeup call — a reflection of the state of my mental health and how it affected my wellbeing. It made me realize that I, too, was vulnerable.”
Medicareplus, one of the leading HMOs in the country, recently signed up a strategic partnership with HMS to offer MindWoRx to their plan holders: (from left) HMS country head Eric Yam, MedicarePlus president Jayjay Viray and vice president Jason Jalandoni.
There has been an increased focus on mental health, especially during the pandemic. However, many of those who feel anxious and depressed are still afraid to ask the question because of the stigma attached to mental illness.
“Stigma and discrimination can make someone's mental health problems worse,” said Caballero. “Thank goodness, the younger generation is very much aware of their feelings. Also, they are the most vocal to really address this issue.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over six million Filipinos are suffering from depression and anxiety. WHO also estimates that mental health conditions in the Philippines are costing the country P68.9 billion, which includes loss of workforce and reduced productivity.
Aside from the stigma, the top two barriers for Filipinos seeking mental health support are: the inaccessibility of services, and financial constraints of availing of the services.
The Philippines ranks third among countries with the highest rates of mental disorders in the Western Pacific Region.
If you think about it, mental illness is a much larger kind of pandemic that, if unaddressed, can severely affect millions of Filipinos.