Understanding Mental Health

Mental health is a term commonly misunderstood in the country. Some Filipinos still can’t differentiate mental health with mental illness and people who are suffering from mental illnesses are often discriminated in schools and work environments. It is in our culture to be strong and cheerful, thus making topics such as depression and suicide hard to discuss among friends and family.

The National Center for Mental Health published an article showing suicide rates of 2.5 for men and 1.7 for women per 100,000 members of the population. The World Health Organisation reported in 2012 that there were 2,558 cases of Filipinos committing suicide with an average of seven cases daily.

To properly understand mental health, we asked the experts from In Touch Community Services which is a nonprofit organisation dedicated to looking after the mental well being of the community. They have highly trained counsellors and also professional development programs by training other counsellors who need an extension of their profession.

Dr. Julian Montano is a Clinical Supervisor for In Touch Community Services and is also the Marriage Counsellor for ABS-CBN’s hit tv series “I Do”

He quotes the World Health Organisation’s definition of mental health which is “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

Mental health is very different from mental illness which is the actual problem or the disorder.

“You can also say that mental health is the umbrella and mental illness could be under that along with the different qualities of mental health”

He explains further that it is a continuum from the person who is most functional in terms of mental well being to the person who is most distressed.

Is mental health a brain problem or a mind problem?

“If you take the brain as the physical matter, it’s more of a physiological problem. Sometimes it can be cause by a physical trauma. I hit my head and I forget certain parts of my lifeline or I get paralysed.”

“The mind problem then could be all the other psychological problems— phobia, depression, bipolar, sex addiction, trauma etc.”

“So this (the brain) is more of the physiological part and this (the mind) is more of the psychological part”

What if the patient’s personality is the problem?

“When we’e talking about personality, these are based on the emotional, behavioral and cognitive experiences of the person.”

“There are what we call personality disorders. These are based on the personality traits that people have that are brought to the extreme.”

“For example, I may be shy, but I can conquer my shyness to be able to talk to you. But then I can also be shy and bring it to the extreme and not even go out because I may be embarrassed. This affects your functionality because you’re so distressed by that feeling of shyness”

“But the thing is, that’s a trait. It’s something that’s inherent in us. It’s practically permanent in us. So it is very difficult to cure if it’s incurable.”

“You can compare this one to a heart disease. I have a heart problem and the doctor gives you maintenance pills not to cure that problem, but to kind of lessen the possibility of a heart attack”

“When we deal with personality disorders, our therapy work that we do is kind of a maintenance pill, we’re working with them not to be able to cure them because we can’t cure them, but to lessen the episodes of crisis.”

So in a way it’s kind of like changing the personality?

“We can’t really change the personality of a person. He can learn behaviors that are of another personality but he will remain always that person.”

“Another thing also interesting there is that people who have psychological disorders suffer because of their disorders.”

“A person who has a personality disorder feels that the way he thinks is the right thing. So technically he doesn’t suffer.”

“For example there is a person who has an obsessive compulsive disorder. He’s someone who wants everything perfect, so he places everything in order. His cabinet is color coded. His shirts, his pants and his underwear are all fixed. And when it’s not, when someone touches it, the person gets mad. But that’s how he suffers. He gets mad because he sees or thinks that these people do not understand or are not as perfect as he is.”

“So we say that in psychological disorder, the person suffers. But in personality disorder, the other person suffers. The relationship suffers.”

How do we convince someone we know to seek professional help, especially if the person doesn’t want to?

“Do not focus on why he has the problem. To be mad and go into blaming mode — “you’re like this and you’re like that” — but instead focus on how he suffers because of that. What are the discomforts that he experiences because of that.”

“When Im angry, after expressing everything, I feel so tired. I even feel so depressed. Because ultimately, I haven’t solved the problem.”

“There’s somebody who’s trained to talk to you. Counselling is confidential and it has a professional approach.”

“Counselling is not just a conversation, it’s a therapeutic conversation.”

Dr. Julian Montano specialises in marital counselling and trauma. He works with depression, anxiety and mental toughness for athletes in In Touch Community Services.

Phillipa Keys is the Executive Director

They have a 24/7 anonymous and free telephone counselling service which is available to everyone. It’s not specific only for depression or suicide like The Department of Health’s Hopeline. It offers counselling to anyone in any sort of crisis. They are broader and their counsels have deeper and more extensive training so that the responders can respond to any issue and not just depression and suicide. You can talk to them about, grief, marital issues or any other issues you want to talk to them about.

You can talk to them here:

Crisis Line Philippines

Landline: 893 7603

Globe: 0917 8001 123

Sun: 0922 8938 944

or email them at : intouch@in-touch.org

They have a Facebook account as well: In Touch Community Services

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