Kylie Verzosa’s Mental Health Matters rallied mental health advocates and concerned citizens to support “Recognize, Get Help, Thrive!,” a campaign to reduce, if not eliminate, social stigma and increase awareness on clinical depression.
The forum was held on March 30, 2019, at the Forest House Assessment and Trainings Center Inc. (FHATCI), Loakan Road, Baguio City.
“Kasi sa pananaw nila, it [depression] is not a real disease, and I am here to say otherwise,” said Ari Verzosa, mental health advocate, businessman and father of Miss International 2016 Kylie Verzosa. He stressed that when we accept that depression is a real disease then we can effectively arrest depression that is becoming more pervasive, especially among the youth.
The forum managed to stir some pleasant and light moments as the mental health professionals explained technical concepts in layman’s language. The roster of speakers included child psychologist, Ms. Cassandra Silverman; Psychiatrist, Dr. Ramona Abat; health advocate, Sheila Guevara-Suntay; workplace mental health expert, Madz Aspiras; Yoga Teacher, Ryan Camarillo and motivational speaker, Ari Verzosa.
Psychologist, Cassandra Silverman dealt with the common misconceptions and myths on mental health that has long been perpetuated in Philippine society. She explained how society victimized people in the past and may include those in the future because it fails to evolve and dispel the myths. Thus, she further explained that society cannot provide a safe place for people with repressed and deep-seated inner struggles. “It is never too late, though.”
Dr. Ramona Abat, speaking on the medical aspect of the issue, shared about her experiences in dealing with different patients. Responding to a question from the audience, Dr. Abat clarified that prescribing medicine does not mean that the patient is already suffering from mental illness. She underscored the fact that the best intervention is one that seeks a balance between medication and psychotherapy. It is necessary that a patient understands his own condition and not just ingest the prescribed medicine.
Madz Aspiras eloquently toured the group through his life journey that led him to his present advocacy for mental health in the workplace. Aspiras related how to deal proactively with workplace mental health concerns by ensuring that the workforce is provided with an environment that ensures safety, warmth and harmony.
Ryan Camarillo, narrated how his efforts to understand his struggles with mental illness brought him to yoga, which led him to a new career as yoga teacher. He demonstrated to the audience how some simple yoga techniques can bring relief as we face the frightening mirror that all of us have within us.
The group breathed in and breathed out as the yoga session ended, but this was only the start of the ride. What happened next was like a steep drop of a roller coaster, as the group found themselves listening to more real life upheavals and downward spirals.
Mrs. Sheila Guevara-Suntay, the founder of YOLO, talked about a family tragedy that pushed her to organize an NGO that advocates for mental health. Her 20-year-old son who was suffering from severe depression decided to end his life in 2018. Mrs. Suntay’s talk, “Living with Grief in Your Heart,” described how she resolved the experience of her son’s death. “I learned to make room for grief in my life,” she said as she found herself realizing that though her sorrow and suffering was almost unbearable, it bore a fruit to the “the most beautiful thing” (explaining that her present advocacy provides moments to cherish her son). The group felt vicariously Mrs. Suntay’s love and fondness of her son Renzo as she shared stories about a loving son, an outstanding athlete who didn’t show signs of depression.
Ari Verzosa ended the campaign with a short thoughtful talk. He stressed that there is an urgent need to overcome the stigma of mental illnesses in our society. The “Mental Health Matters” by Kylie Verzosa may lead to the first step toward this end. This means looking inward and dealing with one’s own stigma. All things must be done so that our society would leave its backward state and evolve into one that values mental health. Support must be provided so that sufferers of mental illness would be empowered to be a guiding light and a spearhead for change.
By Francisco Estigoy Arzadon V