In the past few years, there has been a big shift in the way people think about mental health, and there has been more conversations happening about it, and many are becoming more comfortable about talking about it as well. While those in the Philippines are not as open about talking about mental health as compared to those in an international setting, it is good that mental health is being talked about more today here. This can be seen in the fact that last Saturday, April 28, 2018, the first ever Mental Health Blogathon was held at the Art Cube Gallery in Makati City.
The blogathon, which lasted the entire afternoon, was organized by Mental Health PH, and hoped to be able to talk about mental health and how social media influencers and bloggers can help spread the word by writing about it and by being responsible in the way they write about it.
Most of the those who attended were bloggers, such as myself, and vloggers. One part of the gallery was occupied, and we were encouraged to sit on the pillows, mats and beanbags, which kept the event informal; and were offered Rebisco crackers as our snacks, water, and some coffee. There were also some prizes given out based on the group activity that we did, and prizes were given out to those who had the best picture post, best post, and to the one whose post gained the most likes and retweets during the event.
Aside from Mental Health PH, the event was also co-organized by Mrs. Christine Bersola-Babao, who was present during the event, along with her husband, Mr. Julius Babao.
The event featured several guest speakers who gave informative and interesting talks, an activity, a group activity, and a spoken word performance.
The first speaker was Lawrence dela Fuente, who opened about her own diagnosis story, and the anxieties she first had before starting a blog about it.
This was followed by Dr. Camille Garcia, who gave us an overview on the state of mental health in the Philippines today. Aside from some fun facts regarding food that is good for mental health, we learned that there aren’t a lot of practicing psychologists and psychiatrists in the Philippines, and that most people cannot afford therapy, especially as these services aren’t really readily available in the province areas. She also mentioned that many people still don’t understand mental health, that many parents still cannot accept that their kids need help, and that there is still a very negative stigma surrounding mental health.
Life coach Jostine Bulan then took the floor, and shared her own diagnosis story, and encouraged us to spread positivity and light to others.
Fourth year Psychology student Justine Reyes took the floor next, and gave us specific tips on how to be better and more responsible bloggers and social media influencers, especially when it comes to the topic of mental health. Photojournalist Jansen Romero then took the floor, and echoed Reyes’ tips, while giving additional tips regarding visual ethics.
Kaye Geneta then mixed things up by singing a chorus of a song on her ukelele before sharing her own story, and encouraged us to become “counselors” by being a good support system to our friends in need.
Afterwards, we took a short break with a short and personal activity, before Julia Marie Dela Cruz performed two powerful spoken word pieces in Filipino that related her experience and struggles with depression and suicidal tendencies.
TJ Manotoc then showed us a short video that told of his story battling depression, and gave an inspiring talk in which he stressed that he believes that building up resiliency, especially in children, is something that will help when it comes to emotional management, especially if one has the tendency to become depressed.
He also talked about how believes that stress management for school children is also key, and told us that he has talked to educators to make them realize that children are given too much stress with their school work, as they end up working more than regular employees as many go to tutoring services for help and to stay ahead of the academic race.
Afterwards, we were divided into several groups in order to write a blog entry as a group, using everything that we had learned for the day. During our breaks, we were also encouraged to change into the Mental Health Blogathon t-shirts that were given out to us for free.
After the open forum, Christine Carlos came and taught us about the power of meditation and being mindful of the present. She also taught us a deep breathing exercise that we can do anywhere and at anytime, which will help calm our minds down, especially when we are stressed or in emotional distress.
The entire event ended with the awarding of prizes, the handing out of certificates of recognition for the speakers, and closing remarks by Christine Bersola-Babao, who also announced that another Mental Health PH event will be happening in October of this year.
The event was eye opening and informative for me, and I was amazed to see that there are actually a lot of people who are big advocates of mental health. And seeing this reassured me greatly that even though we aren’t a lot, and even though we may not be able to make a huge impact with regards to mental health in the Philippines; that some steps are definitely being taken in the hopes that those steps and what we do individually may help and impact at least one person’s life.
I am glad that these conversations exist and that events like this happen, and I am definitely looking forward to attending the next event like this!