#UsapTayo for World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) 2023 #WSPD2023

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10 September 2023

Researcher and Writer: Tobey Calayo
Reviewer: Azie Marie Liban, AJ Mapoy
Editor: Kyra, RS Mojica
Moderator: Tobey Calayo, Pat Sevilla, Marian Apostol, DG Ramos
Graphic Artist: Jia Moral, Krystle Labio, Brigida Candelaria, Mitz Sabellano 

 

The Owl and the Chimpanzee

In Jo Camacho’s literature, he illustrated an owl and a chimpanzee who stayed together in a boat called the Mind – the chimpanzee would often act out of impulse, causing the boat to tip and experience unrest; contrastingly, the owl shows skills in navigating the boat as it threads the water.

The chimpanzee’s temper throughout the poem depicts tears of impulse and playfulness, while the owl remains composed and chooses practicality and careful actions of resolve. The poem progresses as the characters work together to find balance and common ground.

The owl illustrates rationality and practicality, while the chimpanzee manifests more human affections of tears and playfulness – these characters symbolize poise and harmony.

Resembling the poem’s characters, advocacy, and social work demands meeting a common ground, and the poem illustrates all things from challenges to resolutions volunteers and advocates may encounter as they bring about a positive change.

This #WSPD2023, we acknowledge the continuous efforts made by our advocates and mental health champions towards destigmatizing suicide and reminding everyone that prevention exists.

Moving the Immovable (Challenging the Status Quo)

Earlier in 2023, mental health advocates, together with Save the Children Philippines, encouraged the Department of Health (DOH) to improve children’s access to healthcare and the Department of Social Welfare and Development to establish community-based mental health programs. This concern arose after the Department of Education disclosed that there were 404 death by succumbing to suicide and 2,147 suicide attempts among students in 2021, confirming the nationwide scale of the problem [1]. 

Axa’s Mind Health and Wellbeing report 2023 revealed that the Philippines, among all of the surveyed regions, recorded the highest number of people experiencing anxiety in places of work and study. Rising prices have been the prevailing concern in the nation as it is felt more substantially in the Philippines than in other countries [2]. 

In the Davao region alone, from January to April 2023, the Davao City Health Office recorded a total of 23 deaths from suicide, while 55 cases were recorded in 2022. Among these cases, age ranges from as young as 11 years old to 70 years old – confirming that suicide is a prevalent problem in both the youth and geriatric communities [3].

In the Philippines, the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) hotline received 26,767 calls from 2019 to 31 August 2021. The highest number of calls recorded was in 2021, with 12,625 calls (as of August 2021). Of the 26,767 calls, 29% or 7,691 were suicide-related calls. As of August 2021, 4,138, or 33% of all calls received by the NCMH hotline were related to suicide [Taken from #WSPD2021 #UsapTayo Article].

In 2019, there was an increase in the suicide rate among the youth of Southeast Asian countries, and it is one of the leading causes of death among people aged 15 to 29. Some risk factors include pressure in academics, low self-esteem, family problems, and pressures of conforming to society [5].

From the aggravated effects of the pandemic, the goal for a mentally healthy community is facing ‘immoveable’ hurdles and setbacks – a call to action needs to exist.

 

Peaceful Exclaims (Call to Action)

Representatives and DOH Undersecretaries stressed in 2023 the need to re-examine government policies on mental health [4].  

On top of the Philippine Mental Health Act or RA 11036, suicide-specific bills have been introduced in Congress.

In October 2022, House Bill 2895, or the Student Suicide Prevention Act, was filed; this obliges the Department of Education (DepEd), the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to curate relevant initiatives to help deter the rising cases of suicide among students [6]. HB 2895 is still in pending status as no further updates as of the moment has been given. 

In September 2016, the seventeenth Congress of the Philippines introduced Senate Bill No. 1163, an Act to Provide Early Youth Suicide Intervention and Prevention Expansion. SB 1163 encountered a dead-end in Congress and was left in pending status.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, under the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, created a compilation of the best available evidence in 2022 of a Suicide Prevention Resource for Action. This 108-page guide explains in detail a part of a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention, it encompasses strategies and methods intended for incorporation within a holistic suicide prevention framework. 

CDC’s Suicide Prevention Resource for Action Highlights: 

  1. Strengthening Economic Supports – approaches include improving household financial security and stabilized housing. 
  2. Creating Protective Environments – approaches include reducing access to lethal means for people at risk of suicide, creating healthy organizational policies or culture, and reducing substance use through community-based policies and practices.
  3. Improving Access and Delivery of Suicide Care – approaches include providing rapid and remote access to help and increasing provider availability in underserved areas. 
  4. Promoting Healthy Connections – approaches include promoting healthy peer norms and engaging community members in shared activities. 
  5. Teaching Coping and Problem-Solving Skills – approaches include supporting socio-economical learning programs and supporting resilience through education programs.
  6. Identifying and Supporting People at Risk – approaches include better response to crises and planning for safety and follow-up after an attempt.
  7. Lessening Harms and Preventing Future Risk – approaches include intervening after a suicide and reporting and messaging about suicide safely. 

The resource above handles suicide prevention at levels of the individual, but mostly on policies and systems. It covers prevention to postvention after a suicide, and serves as a guideline for mental health programs. 

It is hoped that legislation, community-building, and policymaking at the national government level or in state services will focus on the ground-level communities and better encompass programs that guide citizens in their mental health journeys. This includes adherence to evidence-based programs, especially ones that are contextualized in the cultural dynamics and language of the Philippines. 

Embarking on a gradual transformation is still important. It is crucial to begin by tackling deeply ingrained cultural norms, as these norms also exert influence over governmental reforms – an interconnected approach on developmental communication and education (early childhood development up to barangay-level trainings) can be initiated to correct social stigma and discrimination that has become part of the sociolect, this misshapes Filipino culture [7]. 

It is also high time for those in the media, state services, and other authority figures that leads in mass communication to stray away from romanticizing resilience. As Maravilla & Tan wrote, “A picture of a smiling Filipino does not equate to a happy Filipino because the mentally ill know how to smile too.” There should be community-acknowledgement that mental health issues require resolution that takes a long journey, and is not done overnight. Support-systems should be receptive and accepting, not castigating those in need of support [7].

As individuals, we can help push and organize mental health programs in the community: 

  • Comforting the Self. Reach in. Reaching in means that we acknowledge someone’s busy schedule, a sense of connection can be built once we start having conversations – and they aren’t necessarily the heavy ones too, a question about someone’s day goes far, to have someone’s presence seen, heard, and validated is comforting enough.
  • Coordinating the Society. Listening and being there creates hope, but sometimes hope alone isn’t enough – it needs actions. We need to start opening doors, letting others know that help is available to them, we can start creating spaces in our society where our lived experiences can be freely shared without the risk of getting invalidated or worse, stigmatized; building the community encourages understanding, this means that the people who share and those who listen do it safely for everyone. 
  • Challenging the System. This comes in simply by lobbying or petitioning policies, laws, and regulations in our local communities or governments, challenging the status quo also comes into play at our spaces of livelihood, recreation, or education — there is hope that through our actions we can ripple out kindness and belongingness.

 

Cries are loud and deafening, but they don’t have to be; sometimes exclaims can be peaceful and motivating — these grow large and powerful, and a community of exclaims fights for everyone and everybody. 


Hearing the Silenced (Acknowledging Suicide)

Those at risk of suicide are common from the politically-oppresed, in 2021 the United States CDC disclosed that more than a quarter of students who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual were up to five times more likely to attempt suicide or experience suicidal ideations compared to students who identified as heterosexual [8]. 

Oftentimes, suicide happens in moments of personal crises, this includes financial or economical strains, sudden break-ups in relationships, or even in chronic pain and illnesses [9]. 

Furthermore, individuals who undergo conflict, disasters, acts of violence, mistreatment, or bereavement, coupled with feelings of solitude, exhibit higher suicidal tendencies. Moreover, suicide rates are elevated within marginalized communities that face discrimination, including refugees, people with disabilities, migrants, indigenous populations, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and incarcerated individuals [8]. More than an economical, social, and health challenge, suicide also has political factors. 

While a lot of people are at risk, those who are most at risk are those with a history of a previous suicide attempt [8]. 

This #WSPD2023 may we remember to see, hear, and validate, moreso also ourselves. #MayKaramayKa #UsapTayo 

 

Pre – Session Question and Activity: 

  • How did someone change your life for the better? You don’t even have to name them. QRT this tweet with the story of how they changed your life. Let’s prove how our small actions can mean the world to someone else. 
  • [From the Self-Care Kit] Give yourself a permission slip!

Session Questions: 

  1. What’s the smallest and biggest action someone can give or take that will symbolize hope? (Self)
  2. What can we do in our communities to provide mental health support? What mental health support programs should people in authority do? (Society)
  3. What do you hope for an attainable mentally healthy ASEAN & Philippines? 

Post – Session Question and Activity: 

  • After reading today’s article and participating in today’s session, share a message of hope.
  • Tell someone you care for them. Use the most honest words you can. For example, text your mother you love her. Tell your ate that you’re proud of her. Message your cousin that you miss them. Make your love known, then post a ⭐and a screen shot of your text (if you like to share). Let’s fill the timeline with stars.

References:

[1] Philstar News 
February 9, 2023
Preventing student suicides requires help of DOH, DSWD – Save the Children
https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2023/02/09/2243745/preventing-student-suicides-requires-help-doh-dswd-save-children

[2] AXA 
2023 
Toward a New Understanding: Mind Health and Wellbeing Report 
https://www-axa-com.cdn.axa-contento-118412.eu/www-axa-com/a09d3707-ce9d-4e88-bc37-5472f9be77ae_axa_mind_health_study_2023.pdf 

[3]  Philippine Information Agency
May 2023
Davao Region records 23 suicide deaths in 4 months
https://pia.gov.ph/news/2023/05/24/davao-region-records-23-suicide-deaths-fin-4-months 

[4] Manila Bulletin 
February, 2023
Suicides rise among Pinoy youth; pandemic takes toll on mental health
https://mb.com.ph/2023/2/20/suicides-rise-among-pinoy-youth-pandemic-takes-toll-on-mental-health 

[5] The ASEAN Post
2019
Suicides in Southeast Asia on the rise
https://theaseanpost.com/article/suicides-southeast-asia-rise

[6] BusinessWorld
2022
House bill seeks suicide prevention programs for students
https://www.bworldonline.com/the-nation/2022/10/25/482929/house-bill-seeks-suicide-prevention-programs-for-students/  

[7]  Nicholle Maravila & Myles Tan
2021
Philippine Mental Health Act: Just an Act? A Call to Look Into the Bi-directionality of Mental Health and Economy
https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.706483/full

[8] CDC
2021 
Disparities in Suicide
https://www.cdc.gov/suicide/facts/disparities-in-suicide.html 

[9] WHO
2021
Suicide Fact Sheet
https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/suicide 



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