Mental health heavily influences our quality of life. So it makes sense that mental health, just like physical health, needs to be taken care of and maintained. And one way that it can be maintained is through finding a sense of community.
Community can be defined in many ways, but when simplified down to its most important element, community is all about connection. Community is not just an entity or a group of people, it’s a feeling. It’s feeling connected to others, feeling accepted for who you are and feeling supported. Having connections can help us feel wanted and loved. After all, we’re social beings, and we are not meant to live in isolation. Community is critical for us to thrive, especially for someone with mental illness who is already experiencing the common symptoms of loneliness and isolation.
Recently in 2020, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported a 57% increase in the country’s suicide rate compared to the preceding year. The PSA said suicide is the 25th leading cause of death in 2020, up six notches from 31st place in 2019. It took the lives of 4,420 people last year, compared to 2,810 deaths in 2019. In the Western Visayas Region, the Iloilo Police Provincial Office, has recorded a total of 215 suicide cases from the months of January to August 2020 of which 59 cases come from the Iloilo Province.
The most observable warning sign of the current system’s failure is the fact that a large number of those in need go untreated today. There are multiple issues contributing to this, including stigma preventing individuals from seeking care in the first place and the shortage of available providers when they do decide to pursue treatment. Below we outline these gaps, where we stand in addressing them, and what actions we should take to move the needle.
Stigma: Given how society has historically approached mental health disorders, it is no wonder that stigma and shame underlie attitudes toward treatment. Why is the effect of stigma so powerful? Individuals may be afraid to admit, even to themselves, that they need support with mental health. Those who do seek treatment may be afraid to leave the office on a regular basis for therapy appointments as their co-workers and employer may notice. Many fear negative repercussions if their employer finds out that they are experiencing a mental health condition. We won’t make progress until we begin to talk about and treat mental illness the way we do other chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Network Inadequacy: Most institutions such as schools, companies, rely on their behavioral health plan’s network of licensed clinical social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and others to provide clinical support and therapy for those across the behavioral health spectrum. But limitations of today’s networks pose serious threats to their ability to do this well on the institution’s behalf. Compounding the problem, very few institutions leave Filipinos with few affordable options.
With these identified pain points, GooZam, being a community of good samaritans, find it best to invest on creating Community Champions or Mental Health Warriors for a mentally healthier Philippines through the Isip Kalasag: Community-Based Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Training” in partnership with Agubayani.
Agubayani is a team of mental health advocates including doctors and psychiatrists from the Global Shapers Community – Iloilo Hub. The Isip Kalasag delivers a capacity building workshop around mental health awareness and peer counselling support mainly with grass-root officials, youth leaders, and/or barangay health workers.
After all, who do you turn to when you need something? Having people you can call on when you need to talk or need help with something can help you through difficult situations that might feel insurmountable alone. Knowing there are people who support you can help you feel cared for and safe, and can benefit your outlook on life.
GooZam, being a community in itself, recognizes that humans crave connection. Feeling accepted for who you truly are can give you validation and self-worth. Knowing there are people who support you and will be there for you when you’re struggling provides a sense of safety. And knowing you’re needed, that you have a purpose, reminds you that you are valued. Community provides all these qualities and more.
In the community, people fill different roles. Perhaps you’re the friend who enjoys cooking and can be counted on to bring a hot meal over when someone is going through something. Or you’re the friend who others know they can call when they need to talk about their struggles. These roles can be fulfilled with Isip Kalasag, giving you a sense of purpose through bettering other people’s lives. Having purpose, and helping others, helps give meaning to life.
No matter if your community is big or small, finding people you connect with is vital for your mental health. And remember, just as it’s important for you to find your community, it’s also important for others to have you as a part of their community. We all need each other.
Be a Community Champion today. Register now!