The Social Aspergirl: Head On: Let’s Talk About Mental Wellness

In the past few years, and especially in the past few months, there has been a lot of talk about mental health and wellness, and many have become a little bit more open to talk about it. In the Philippines, it has only been in the past few months in which I have really been hearing more people talk about it, and because of that, and the recently passed Mental Health Law in the local government, more and more organizations and groups have been creating discussions about mental health and wellness through events and talks in order to educate others, to spread awareness, and to create a safe space for people to be open about it. One such event that did this was the recently concluded “Head On: Let’s Talk About Mental Wellness” talk that happened on July 14, 2018, Saturday, at The Learning Child School in Ayala Alabang, and which was hosted by MAGIS Creative Spaces.

 The entire event lasted the entire morning, and consisted of several talks given by experts and influencers in their particular fields. What was quite interesting about the talks was that it was very holistic, as there were talks that focused more on the science part of things, and there were talks that talked about mindfulness, spirituality, and how expressive arts is used as therapy.

As mentioned earlier, the entire event was hosted by MAGIS Creative Spaces. They are a center for psychosocial services, and provide occupational and speech therapies, neurofeedback therapy, and expressive arts therapies. Their services are mostly focused on children and work hand in hand with The Learning Child School, where they are based. What is very interesting about them is that they do Expressive Arts Therapy with not only children, but with adults as well. This means that they use drama, visual arts, dance or movement, and music that emphasizes how art has the power to heal. Aside from this, they also incorporate our own Philippine artistic heritage and the way our indigenous tribes use the arts to heal, in their therapies as well.

They also hold mental health and wellness talks every month, and have interesting programs such as “The Aesthetics of Self-Care”, which allows the participants to use the arts in order to curb and cope with burn-out and stress.

I have actually worked with MAGIS before, and I really do admire what their programs want to achieve. (Disclaimer, this is NOT a sponsored post.)

The entire event kicked off with a prayer, and with  Patrick Gamo, a psychotherapist and local content creator/vlogger who talks about mental health, giving a brief introduction about the event.

The first round of talks kicked off with Dr. Constantine Delia, who taught us about the Biopsychosocial Model approach with regards to mental health for mental health pracitioners, and why he advocates this particular model.

Head On Talk Dr. Constantine Delia BPS Model
Dr. Constantine Delia talking about the Biopsychosocial Model approach to mental health.

Afterwards, Dr. Cheryl Ramirez of Mindworks took the floor and taught us about the different kinds of brain waves and the particular kind of therapy she does- neurofeedback. So not only did I learn something new, but she also showed us interesting images of how the electrical activity in our brains look like when we are anxious.

Head On Dr. Cheryl Ramirez
Dr. Cheryl Ramirez enlightening us about Neurofeedback

Dr. Constantine Delia then took the floor once more and talked to us about the role of psychiatry in a diagnosis and the various challenges that most psychiatrists face when it comes to diagnosing a patient. He also touched briefly on the Diagnostic Statistic Manual (DSM) and the International Statistical Classification of Diseases (ICD); and talked about how he believes that clinical significance or how much the patient is impaired by what he or she has, and what the psychiatrist observes with the patient, is more important to make a judgement call to make a diagnosis rather than fulfilling a standard set of criteria in the DSM. This talk also showed me how difficult this field is, as it is very subjective at times, as compared to other fields where there are biomarkers or actual symptoms that you look for that is manifested for most patients with that kind of illness or disease.

We then  had a “working” snack break as we took the mid-morning snacks provided to us while listening to the talk of Patrick Gamo, which focused more on psychotherapy. In his talk, we learned the definition of psychotherapy, and the particular kind of therapy that he does- act therapy. This kind of therapy is a behavioral kind of therapy which allows the client to dig deep and use their own core values and beliefs to motivate change; and allows them to accept what they cannot control and commit to take action to move forward. Basically, it’s almost as if your own personal guide who helps you see things in a more objective way and helps you come up with actionable goals in order to have a better and happier life.

IHead On Patricak Gamo
Patrick Gamo of Psych of Pat defining psychotherapy and act therapy

Denise Celdran then took over afterwards, and led us in a very relaxing mindfulness exercise, and then explained to us what the seven levels of existence are. Aside from being relaxing, the exercise allowed us to just be in the moment, and interestingly enough, while doing that, it was easier to accept and be calm about whatever was happening around us. She also mentioned how mindfulness also works hand in hand with the act therapy that was mentioned before her talk.

Head On Denise Celdran
Denise Celdran on Mindfulness

Last but not least, the morning’s round of talks was capped off with Teacher Joey Atayde talking about the Expressive Arts and how all art can be therapeutic not only to those with mental health issues, but with ordinary people as well. Using the expressive arts, such as drawing, drama, movement, and others, can help people open up and gives the needed opening for them to talk about things that are bothering them. It gives them a safe space to do so, and one doesn’t need to have to be an actual artist in order to use art as therapy.

Head On Joey Atayde
Teacher Joey Atayde from MAGIS talking about the benefits of Expressive Arts Therapy

The entire event was then capped off by an interesting question and answer portion, where many lay people, such as myself learned a little bit more about psychology; and the fact that there is such a thing as specific psychologies per country, and how there is a movement to create a Philippine Psychology, which is a challenge that those in this field want to tackle.

Head On Q & A
Q & A with the speakers

The entire morning was enlightening, educational and holistic, as we got to learn the scientific side of things, all the way to different kinds of therapy that can be used. Aside from this, it is good that there are now safe spaces like this in which mental health can be openly talked about in our country, and that there are organizations like this who go the extra mile to really push for events like this, whose boom is only starting in our country.

P.S. I know that I haven’t really been blogging here for a while because a lot of life and work things happened that have been keeping me busy. However, look forward to more posts from me as I’ll be participating in the #TakeTheMaskOff Challenge from July 23 to September 10, 2018, by posting weekly about masking in the given topic/question for the week. I’ll see you all soon again! 

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