The Real Impact of Dismissing Mental Health Disorders

Dear Joey De Leons of the world, it’s time to get your education about mental health on the road. Let go of the belief that’s it’s not real because you don’t see it. That’s the nature of anything that’s in your mind, it’s not tangible. Also, your words will just keep adding to the problem and prevent us from moving forward. It’s 2017. We need to keep up with the times.

Dismissing mental illnesses adds to the damaging taboo that detracts from mental health awareness. Psychologist Patricia Simon tells us that hearing such phrases continues the stigma. “It trivializes the disease and it prevents people from seeking help that they need.” This is also the same reason why a lot of people who experience depression are undiagnosed.

On top of that, the Philippines is still taking steps into addressing the problem such as the passing of the Mental Health Bill. This debunks the reasoning that only rich people are only affected by such diseases. “It’s only that way because right now, access to mental health resources is limited to those who can afford it,” says Dr. Simon.

RJ Naguit, national chairperson of the Youth for Mental Health Coalition echoes the sentiments of Dr. Simon. To hear these words on national TV and in general makes the person feel more ashamed about their condition. “It also promotes discrimination against people with mental health conditions by belittling, trivializing, and invalidating their problems.”

When a person with mental health disorders hear such language, it’s a trigger. Lia de Jesus, who has been diagnosed with depression says, “How could someone of influence say such things? Is he not aware of the many people who are fighting for this stigma to stop? Is he not aware of the Mental Health Bill? Is he not aware [how] the things he will say will affect people?” Lia adds to those who believe in these kinds of insensitive remarks that, “they are also part of a ripple effect, if they start something it will grow.”

The American Psychological Association describes depression as “more than just sadness.” It manifests through a “lack of interest and pleasure in daily activities, significant weight loss or gain, insomnia or excessive sleeping, lack of energy, inability to concentrate, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.”

This is why it is important that depression, along with other mental illnesses, is recognized an approached as a public health concern. When left untreated and undiagnosed, depression only worsens. It’s not correct to tell people to “just get over it” or “not think about it.” To comments that continue to insist on keep depression in the dark, Lia says, “I honestly can’t remember much about life without my illness. I guess I have lived with it for so long that it is part of my life now. I have learned to live with it. But it affects the way I interact with people [and] with myself. And to think people like Joey De Leon thinks na “gawa gawa” ko lang siya hurts because it hurts. I didn’t ask for this illness. Mental health is just like physical health.”


Art by Lara Intong 

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