Exposing mental health

By Francisco Estigoy Arzadon V

IN Asian cultures, it was observed that family is central and of paramount value to every person’s existence.

In an article in Psychology Today, shame is described as something that is experienced collectively making it a family issue. Thus, we can expect that in the Philippines, the family should be more involved in overcoming social stigma that comes with mental illness. 

YOLOxMHM Dream Team

Mental health as a family concern is a recurring theme during the event “Remove the Mask, Break the Stigma,” a forum on mental health that was organized by Bong and Sheila Suntay’s “YOLO by Renzo Suntay” and Ari and Raquel Verzosa’s “Mental Health Matter by Kylie Verzosa.” This was held on May 26 at Sampaguita Gardens, Quezon City, almost two months after a similar forum in Baguio City. 

Raquel Verzosa opened the event by stating that mental health is an open topic in their family. She talked about her family’s shared experiences with mental-health issues. Though she does not suffer from any mental illness, she is the mental-health caregiver of the family. Their shared experiences have led the whole family to advocate for mental-health awareness.

The Suntays shared how the death of their son, Renzo, and their persistent experience of loss has led to a new perspective in family rearing. Seeing their son in the faces of people with mental-health issues urged them to lead the advocacy.

2. Kylie Verzosa and Sheila Suntay 3. Ari Verzosa 4. Raquel Verzosa 5. Dr. Camille Garcia 6. Manuel Bausa 7. Rep. Bong Suntay 8. Gab Valenciano 9. Jessica Everingham, Gab Valenciano, Dra. Garcia, Manuel Bausa, Raquel V., Rep. Bong Suntay 10. Sheila Suntay with Gary and Angeli Valenciano

Dr. Camille Garcia narrated her experience as the resident psychologist of World of Dance and The Voice Kids. She highlighted the value of having a family as one’s social support as the most important means to survive the illness. Manuel Bausa described how it was like to experience severe attacks and treatments; and he was thankful that her family was there with him. After a year of leave of absence, Bausa eventually finished his schooling with flying colors. 

Being the son of Gary Valenciano, Gab recounted how being a Valenciano made him vulnerable to bullying and harmful influences, which led to mental illness. His family and loved ones remained with him through his near-death moments. After going through treatment, he now reflects and sees his struggles as a blessing because it allows him to reach out to others who are going through the same difficulties.

Miss International 2016, Kylie Versoza, openly talked about her own family’s journey with her mental illness and how a seemingly ugly experience resulted in something beautiful. Her competition coaches advised her to choose another advocacy because mental health, depression and suicide awareness do not sound sexy and winnable. Despite initial failure to win the crown of Binibining Pilipinas in 2015, Kylie clung to her advocacy until she finally won.  Winning the Miss International 2016 competition enabled her to take the mental-health awareness in a broader sphere.

In the open forum, Gary Valenciano raised the concern about the increasing number of children with mental-health issues, which was not a problem of the past. Dr. Garcia enlightened the audience about how the present society is imposing on our youth “new” types of pressures and expectations that were not experienced by their elders, and these pressures are often unrealistic. Failure to meet such expectations, and the frustration and shame brought by mental illness can indeed bear heavily on the individual. 

As a whole, the forum provided a beautiful picture where parents are seen listening, asking questions and learning from their mistakes and failures. In such safe context, the young ones can remove the mask and honestly talk about their own struggles. Overcoming the pain, shame and stigma together will lead not only to healing but also worthwhile advocacies. 

Image credits: www.freepik.com | Designed by rawpixel.com


1 comment

  1. —–overcoming social stigma that “comes with” mental illness.

    It does not “come with”. Like all prejudices it has to be taught.

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