With successive incidents of suicide among notable celebrities here and abroad, there is now a strong call to promote good mental health among people suffering from various mental health disorders. Now, it is not just enough to provide emotional support, belongingness, understanding and compassion. There is also a strong need to spread enough information, how to know if one is suffering from mental issues, especially those undergoing various amounts of physical and emotional stress that can be too hard to handle, much more ignore.

To stress further the need to spread more information about mental health issues, Mental Health Matters (MHM) recently celebrated its 1st anniversary through its “Mental Health Matters Fair.” The event, which was held at the Crown Spaces in Makati City and opened to the public, was organized by the group and Miss International 2016 Kylie Verzosa, herself an advocate of good mental health and who once underwent bouts with depression.

The fair featured several inspirational talks from guest speakers from the medical profession and the legislative sector, free psychiatric consultations, art exhibits, live performances, and interactive and imaginative booths and was open to the public. Priority access, however, was provided to the MHM Support Group and the Anxiety and Disorder Support Philippines (ADSP).

The whole-day affair started with psychiatrists from the Philippine Psychiatric Association (PPS) and Talang Dalisay, a nongovernmental organization, who jointly provided professional psychiatric advice for free to select attendees. Both are partners of MHM.

The afternoon started with a talk by Senator Risa Hontiveros, author and principal sponsor of the bill that became Republic Act 11036 or the Philippine Mental Health Law, which was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte recently. She said mental health struggles among Filipinos are very complex. “Today and every day, you are not alone,” she assures those present.

She said the law’s Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) is now being developed under the Department of Health, particularly on seeking increase in access to services up to the community level, a progressive “referral” system, on-campus anti-discrimination and anti-stigma program, and inclusion of non-medical interventions to health and healing.

Verzosa, a strong advocate of mental health since her reign, said she organized the event for the benefit of everyone who has been struggling and who has survived. She also called on people undergoing depression to not be afraid to seek help. “Get help by talking to someone. Let’s speak up about mental health before it’s too late.” Dr. Gia Sison, a breast cancer survivor and a Youth for Mental Health Coalition national adviser, meanwhile, provided invaluable advice, particularly on developing mental strength to help overcome failures.

There were also other speakers who shared their mental health advocacies. UST student Reymark Simbulan, a member of the LGBTQ community who also suffered from depression, shared many important things about finding one’s anchors, not giving up because it will get better, and knowing that God will make us stronger. He also noted that “members of the LGBTQ community are almost three times likely to experience mental health problems like depression,” he said.

Diet coach Nadine Tengco, meanwhile, said food has a profound effect in addressing one’s mental health while Mariella Tung, a pastry chef, shared her story of resilience and recovery. “I finally came out to people about depression and became strong because of my son, my anchor. Every day, I remind myself of that one person.” Kates Ante, head of operations at ADSP, explained how “laughter yoga” works, and said the art pieces in the exhibit were masterpieces of people with mental health problems. Rachelle Jardin, a former media researcher, filmmaker and poet, meanwhile, said her team is working on an idea of a social enterprise for mental health.

Mental Health Matters is an online support group established for people experiencing various forms of mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety disorders. The group also offers seminars to spread awareness about mental health in many universities nationwide. For more information about the group, go to www.Facebook.com/mentalhealthmattersbykylieverzosa.

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