COPING W/ MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES AMID THE PANDEMIC
Local government units and other stakeholders in the Cordillera must also pay attention to another health issue that might not be considered a vital concern, but can have a profound impact on public health if we remain indifferent to it.
Statistics indicating that the number of deaths by suicide mostly due to anxiety and depression in Baguio City is higher than the combined deaths related to Covid-19 in the region should not be taken lightly, especially for individuals grappling with preexisting mental health issues. The recent figure showed that Baguio alone registered 18 deaths by suicide since March, compared with the 12 Covid-19-related deaths in the region.
Whether the number of deaths by suicide in the city is high or low, it should also be the focus of public attention. The fact that there are people who took their lives is disturbing, especially in a community where we have always believed that strong family support and social ties are intact.
This brings us to one important aspect of our well-being that must be given attention to – our mental health.
Over the years, mental wellness advocacies have been growing. For a conservative society like ours, where some consider mental health as a sensitive topic, it’s about time we break the stigma that only those with psychological disorders should go for consultation with experts on mental health.
It is wrong to equate mental health to psychological disorders. Mental health covers not only our state of mind, but also our emotional and social well-being. This is why mental health advocates focus not only on eradicating discrimination against people with mental disorders, but are also raising public awareness on how we can keep positive mental health.
As we battle against the Covid-19 pandemic, let us not forget that cases of anxiety and depression are also on the rise.
There is therefore a need to strengthen the programs that were initiated towards the promotion of positive mental health.
We share the views of health professionals that there must be trained community workers to deal with mental health issues.
Since dealing with mental health issues needs expert intervention and given the fact that there are only a few professionals in Baguio and the rest of the Cordillera who can deal with mental health issues, the most practical solution is to extend the training to capable individuals in the communities.
We recognize too that treatment of mental health problems can only be lodged with licensed professionals, but preventing of the occurrence of these problems can be handled by people in the communities who are qualified and who have been properly trained to provide mental health services and interventions.
For those concerned, there are available tips online on how to maintain good mental health in this time of pandemic such as getting plenty of sleep, eat well, avoid alcohol, smoking and drugs, get plenty of sunlight, regular exercise, and seek for help if needed.
While most people are glued on their phones, leave and breathe if social media gets too toxic.
It is reassuring that the city government and other government agencies have programs promoting wellness. The impacts of these efforts will double if we have capable and appropriately-trained individuals or groups in the communities who can help in the prevention of mental health issues.
As we rise from the challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, the government should also ensure the mental well-being of its people. Mental wellness is as important as physical and economic well-being. We need to ensure that our society has a workforce and a people that is not only physically and economically strong but also mentally sound.