Breaking Mental Health Barriers with Agubayani Social Learning Program

We understand how devastating mental illness can be. Jobs come to an end, relationships grow apart, and lives can be lost. That’s why the work we do here at GooZam Grow is so important– we don’t only grow for the future of work, we also change lives, and maybe even help save them.

It is difficult, but talking about mental health as well as mental illness is really important. It can be tough living with a mental health challenge, but it’s also a challenge to know how to offer good support to someone who is. We’re continuously finding ways to break the stigmas around mental health while going beyond raising awareness of the illness itself – and, indeed, with our mission to improve lives, it’s our duty to do so. We are introducing and pressing the conversation in communities and raising the visibility of information and resources in order to shatter the silence and dispel stigma surrounding mental health. Because the only thing standing between you and those ugly thoughts– is silence.

So, let’s talk about it?

According to a 2004 study conducted by the Department of Health (DOH), an estimated 4.5 million cases of depression were reported. Another study published in 2012 by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that 3.3 million Filipinos suffer from depressive disorders and 3.1 million suffer from anxiety disorders. According to the Global School-Based Student Health Survey, which was conducted from January to March 2011, 16.3 percent of high school students aged 13 to 15 who responded to the survey said they seriously considered attempting suicide, and 12.9 percent attempted suicide one or more times in the previous 12 months.

The country has 60 psychiatric health care institutions and practitioners, with Metro Manila housing the largest government-owned hospital. Only about 7% of all public and private hospitals in the Philippines have psychiatric units, and there are two mental health workers for every 100,000 Filipinos and one psychiatrist for every 250,000. In the school setting, there is also a lack of registered guidance counselors to cater to approximately 22 million public school students. 

While there have been efforts by the government to address these gaps in mental health, perhaps the biggest improvement on mental health care was when the Mental Health Bill was signed into law last June 2018. This law aims to make mental health care accessible and affordable by incorporating it to the public health care system and create a community-based mental health care plan. But even if the Mental Health Law has already been approved, the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) are yet to be set in place. As such, non-government efforts could still be of benefit while the law is yet to be fully implemented. 

The bottomline? Mental health is just as important as physical health, and we’re working hard to get that message out there. Lucky for us, we found people who share the same passion as us.

Agubayani, a name derived from the Hiligaynon terms ‘agubay’, which means “to support or guide,” and ‘bayani’, which means “hero” team of mental health advocates from the Global Shapers Community – Iloilo Hub. The Community, a youth initiative of the World Economic Forum, is situated in different cities around the world. In Iloilo, the Hub is composed of passionate young Ilonggo leaders who create sustainable projects to help shape the city.

The core team includes Rosa Lea Baldevarona, Welmar Benedicto, Dy Fallacorina, Kirstin Leigh Pareja, Angelica Quitasol, Strike Pareja and Mitz Serofia. The members, to note, have led and supported various mental health initiatives through the years. Dr. Serofia was the man behind Project KaleidosCOPE, a project teaching high school students coping skills and mindfulness techniques. Pareja also led the Rebuilding Hope Project that was held on mental health week last 2018 and Climb Out of the Darkness event last 2019. The team has also conducted round  table discussions and meetings with other mental health groups in Iloilo.

With the partnership between GooZam Grow and Agubayani, we want to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health illnesses for good, provide lasting support to those who live with these conditions and create environments in which they can have open conversations without judgement. All of this, we hope to achieve with the Social Learning Program. 

In our pipeline of exciting initiatives is a toolkit– consisting of sessions such as Orientation for Day 1, Positive Emotions for Week 1, Engagement for Week 2, Relationships for Week 3, Meaning for Week 4, and Accomplishment and Culminating for Week 5. Furthermore, this program also includes Nurture Notes, a workbook that will provide you with indispensable communication tools to better prepare us all for starting conversations about mental health, more specifically about how he or she is doing based on the topics provided in the activities. 

The workbook will work with five (5) themes wherein each theme includes different fun and engaging activities that will allow the user to self-reflect and give him or her an opportunity to acquire certain coping skills. At the end of each month, users will be gathered in one place for a debriefing session which will be conducted by a facilitator. These sessions will be an avenue to further deepen the understanding about a certain topic and also strike a deeper guided conversation among the users about their insights or feelings about the topic or activities.

While this may look all fun and games, we make sure to address the gap in providing mental health services to the youth program by raising awareness and knowledge about the importance of mental wellness by having thematic activities that apply the PERMA framework used in Positive Psychology; providing various activities aimed towards self-discovery and acquiring good coping skills; and establishing a safe space among and within the youth and their immediate community to share about themselves based on the topics provided in the workbook — all of this is exactly what we’re hoping to accomplish so that we can better break the mental health stigma once and for all.

We’re excited for you to join us soon. Register now!

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