Mind Matters: Mental Health in a Pandemic

by Danielle Marie Felix and Agielou Frances Peig of the Rotaract Club of Cebu Fuente

In the past years, we have seen the gradual increase of advocates for mental well-being. With the current threat of COVID-19, its impact on our daily lives in terms of fear, stress, anxiety and depression have resulted in increased attention on mental health.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”. Mental health is more than just the absence of mental disorders. It is about our ability to individually and collectively think, emote, interact, and enjoy life.

Today, our mental health is being challenged. We wake up to the news of new cases and deaths. Some people rise up in the morning worrying that they may have contracted the virus. Others wake up losing their jobs or even losing their loved ones. Our doctors, nurses and other medical professionals battle the disease in the frontlines fearing that they may also succumb to the virus. Many have lost their businesses, others are having a hard time making ends meet just to find food for their families.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO already reported that the Philippines had one of the highest rates of depression in Southeast Asia. It is estimated that there are about three million Filipinos experiencing depression. According to the National Statistics Office, mental illness is the third most prevalent form of morbidity in the country. The National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) currently reports an increase in the number of Filipinos facing mental health issues with a spike of 30-35 daily calls during period of enhanced community quarantine compared to 13-15 daily calls in the second half of 2019. The NCMH also reported that the monthly average calls related to suicide increased to 45 calls per month as of May 31, 2020.

In an online survey conducted last May among 450 employees by Premier Value Provider (PVP), an insights and solutions company for human resource and organizational development, it was found out that the millennials and the Gen Zs were the most affected by the mental health crisis in the COVID-19 era. Based on the survey, 43 per cent of the millennials and Gen Zs had severe stress levels, 87 per cent with severe anxiety levels and 62 per cent with severe depression levels.

The Rotaract Club of Cebu Fuente, being a service club for young people, acknowledges the need to strengthen the mental health of our fellow youth. We partnered with the non-government organization Lingap Diwa that is advocating for mental health to conduct Mental Health Webinars focusing on four different modules namely, (1) enhancing mental resilience in the workplace for professionals encountering stress and burnout; (2) mental health to provide self-care strategies in this time of pandemic; (3) psychosocial support for frontliners addressing stress and anxiety of frontliners as they deal with their jobs; and (4) how to keep the brain healthy while staying at home.

Since the program began in May 2020, the Rotaract Club of Cebu Fuente has already conducted 35 webinars in partnership with 40 Rotaract clubs across the country. These benefitted more than one thousand individuals. Some participants have availed the free online consultations with a neurologist and psychiatrist offered by partner Lingap Diwa.

Here are some self-care tips on how to preserve mental health during this COVID-19 pandemic as featured in our Mental Health Webinars.

1. Do things you enjoy or try something new

Make yourself productive: learn a new skill, do movie marathons, catch up on your favorite series, read books, cook, get creative, and explore other activities that would divert your attention from the negativities brought by the pandemic.

2. Manage your media and information intake

If news and constant social media updates are making you worried, try to limit the time you spend for news coverage of the outbreak. Avoid fake news and rumors that make you further worried. Find access to free and accurate information about COVID19.

3. Keep socially connected

It is normal to feel worried, scared or helpless with the current situation more so because we are isolated. Maintain contact with friends and family via phone and video calls to express how you feel. At times of stress, we feel better in company and with emotional support.

4. Seek professional help

Avail yourself of technology-enabled mental health services. Mobile applications, tele-health hotlines, and virtual treatments can provide efficient and effective means of addressing serious mental issues building up within a person and around him.

What is important is how one continues to be resilient. Keep both your physical and mental health intact. Encourage your loved ones to do the same. Our mind also matters. If we can, provide support to people in mental distress.

Our Rotaract club targets to continuously conduct Mental Health Webinars until December. If there are organizations interested to offer these seminars, you may reach us via email at raccebufuentecombased@gmail.com. Together, let us safeguard everyone’s mental health.

This article was featured in the August 2020 issue of the Philippine Rotary Magazine as seen below.

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