"Stigma as a Barrier in Mental Health Situation in the Philippines."
Updated: Apr 4, 2022
To become a healthy person, one should make sure that he attends to the needs of his own body holistically. When we say holistically, this is a way of taking care of the body as a whole, not just the physical body but also the spirit and mind, to create a balanced life. Someone may be physically fit, socially active, and spiritually fulfilled but suffers from mental illness. Then, we cannot ultimately say that he is a healthy person because he could not address his body's needs mentally, and balance is not achieved. Nowadays, people tend to overlook the importance of good mental health, especially here in the Philippines.
In a report by the World Health Organization in 2014, The Philippines had 2,558 cases of suicide deaths due to mental health problems in the year 2012 alone. These figures had risen until 2019 in which according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), there were 2,808 recorded deaths by suicide. It got even worse by 2020 with a 25.7% growth than the previous year where PSA had recorded 3,529 cases. With that said, if mental health is not prioritized, death cases related to mental health problems would not cease to increase, and individuals suffering from it would not be given the right to live. People do not talk about mental health here in the Philippines more often because of the thinking that it is a bizarre topic and the culture that we have emphasizes an environment of humor and resiliency amidst pain and suffering when in reality, they lack the knowledge about mental health and just the existence of stigmas makes it even worse.
In a qualitative study by Tanaka et. al., (2018), stigma experienced by people with mental health problems, including epilepsy in the Philippines has been brought up. They said that the participants, which were the community health volunteers, caregivers of people with mental health problems, and the people with mental health problems, including epilepsy, themselves pointed out that they experience stigma due to cultural perspectives such as the concept of mental illness as a family disease. Stigmatizing attitudes toward people with mental illnesses are frequently expressed through comedy or hatred, while media portrayals of them are frequently associated with harm and misconduct (Rivera et al., 2017). The stigma of having mental health illness as humor and should not be taken seriously makes it even worse because of the derogatory terms used in casual conversations such as "baliw" or "abnoy". This just proves that Filipinos have simplistic minds and insensitive stigmas with regard to mental health problems.
Stigma in mental health is an immense barrier to keeping an individual and a community healthy. It would result in a great deal of negative impact not only to individuals suffering from mental illness but also on society. Stigma affects the willingness of people having mental problems to seek professional help. When this happens, their situation could worsen and lead to a more dangerous feeling of demoralization and decreased self-worth and self-efficacy. This could also affect their way of living. It could compromise their work and social activity with other people. As aforementioned, it could affect the society because promotion and development of mental health programs in the Philippines would not be paid attention to and in the allocation of funds. Making of lawsuits to protect people with mental health problems and could be a hindrance in psychiatric researches because it would be difficult for the researchers to find data or patients to volunteer concerning the mental health problem that they are trying to seek treatment from.
Interventions aimed at reducing stigma have been integrated into the community by raising awareness among children in schools, promoting inclusivity in the workplace, promoting that seeking professional help is not something to be ashamed of. Also maximizing the use of media to share information about mental health and how to deal with people who have it, similar to how it is done in the United States. They also have a month dedicated to mental health awareness, which takes place in May but is constantly discussed and shared. Mental health should also be taken seriously in the Philippines, rather than being dismissed and mocked.
Rivas, R. (2021, March 17). Suicide cases rise in PH as pandemic drags on. Rappler. https://www.rappler.com/nation/suicide-rises-philippines-pandemic-drags-on-2021
Rivera, Ana Kriselda & Antonio, Carl. (2017). Mental Health Stigma Among Filipinos: Time For A Paradigm Shift.
Tanaka, C., Tuliao, M. T. R., Tanaka, E., Yamashita, T., & Matsuo, H. (2018). A qualitative study on the stigma experienced by people with mental health problems and epilepsy in the philippines. BMC Psychiatry, 18(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-018-1902-9
Tugade, R. (2017, April 25). We need to talk about mental illness in the Philippines.CNN Philippines. https://cnnphilippines.com/life/culture/2017/04/25/mental-illness-stigma.html