Mental Health and Year 2021

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December 10, 2021

Writers: Christopher Jan Dumaguin, Jasmin Cyrille, Rafael Reyes
Editor: K Ballesteros
Researchers: Christopher Jan Dumaguin, Jasmin Cyrille, Rafael Reyes
Creatives: Krystle Mae Labio, Jacklyn Moral, Klein Xavier Boiser
Moderators: Tobey Calayo, Marga Minon, Ella MIlitante, Charlie Tanala, Irla Feliciano, Aiah Osana, and Mitz Sabellano
Documentors: K Ballesteros
Spaces: Alvin Joseph Mapoy, Angelica Jane Evangelista, Tobey Fhar Isaac Calayo, Marie Nicole Ingrid Lusterio, Sci Torres, and Angel Almeda

 

 

Almost two years under the dreading pandemic and on and off lockdown situation, our bodies and minds have not yet gotten used to restrictions under the Covid-19 pandemic. A study about Psychological impact of COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines showed that 40% of Filipino respondents reported moderate-to-severe anxiety and 60% reported moderate-to-severe depression and psychological impact during the early phase of the pandemic [1]. Additionally, a multi-country study regarding the effects of lockdown on the mental health of young adults showed that the Philippines showed the highest mean score among all other countries namely Egypt, Pakistan, India and Ghana. Filipinos also tend to use self-destruction as a coping strategy among others [2]. Self-destruction or self destructive behavior are intentional or unintentional ways to harm oneself [3]. 

In the study Suicidal Ideation and The Workplace by mental health services company MindNation, 5,868 employees of Philippine companies were surveyed from September 2020 to June 2021 [4]. The survey covered questions about workplace satisfaction, and the respondents’ mental health. The study looked at factors that affect employee mental health, and ways it can be improved [4]. The study found that COVID-19 fears were the biggest source of mental health challenges among suicidal employees, followed by personal matters, financial pressure, work performance pressure, and loneliness [4].

The year of 2021 has become a period of enlightenment for Filipinos on the importance of mental health. Online platforms and advocacies address current issues about mental health. And one of Mental Health PH’s social media campaigns, #UsapTayo, seeks to educate and zero the suicide cases and stigma against mental health [5]. Mental health advocacy has always been the heart and soul of #MentalHealthPH [5]. Since 2016, the organization has increased awareness about people’s struggles with mental ill-health, empowered members to support themselves and others, and collaborated with various sectors towards sustainable solutions [5]. Mental Health in the Philippines has been the focus of non-government organizations to address Filipinos’ mental wellbeing during the pandemic. The Department of Health (DOH) partnered with the National Privacy Commission to deliver free telemedicine services in the country and has delivered teleconsultation services to over 70,000 and counting [6]. In relation to this, the Department of Education (DEPED) also launched various initiatives like boosting their mental health system to help students, teachers and the general public to be in touch with various health organizations offering mental health services across the country [7]. More notable acts this year are the mental health movements and programs of organizations nationwide. To highlight, Mental Health PH conducted programs like Creating Hope Asia [5] and BetterToday [8].

Mental Health in the Workplace

The massive societal shifts underway have changed company cultures and employee perceptions around mental health [9]. Companies have invested more towards a better working environment, leading employees to also start expecting their workplace to accommodate mental health as equal to physical health. [9]. Still, many companies (and individuals) do not feel comfortable talking about mental health [10]. Without an open dialogue within the workplace, employees who are struggling with mental health will likely not feel comfortable sharing what they are going through or seeking help—until it becomes too much to handle, causing negative effects for both them and the company [10]. 

Although employers have responded with initiatives like mental health days or weeks, four-day workweeks, and enhanced counseling benefits or apps, they were not enough [9]. Employees need and expect sustainable and mentally healthy workplaces, which requires taking on the real work of culture change [9]. Employers must connect what they say to what they actually do [9].

A 2021 report by the American Psychological Association showed that 71% of employees typically feel tense or stressed out during the workday [10]. People, also, now feel they are overworked yet underpaid. 56% said that their low salaries are affecting their stress levels, while 50% said they have too heavy of a workload in 2021 — higher than 49% and 44%, respectively, in 2019 [10].

Employees with productivity issues become inefficient with time as a resource, incurring a productivity loss of about two hours for each day they work under these conditions. [11]. This means that these employees are losing one day per week, which translates into a loss of two months a year due to their productivity challenges [11]. Almost a quarter of the respondents said they are thinking about quitting due to mental health challenges. When they factor in the employees who are really challenged with mental health issues and think about quitting, it becomes 5% of the total employee base in every company [11].

Harvard Business Review reports that compared to 2019, more employees are facing difficulties in their mental health this 2021, and the struggle remains evident for underrepresented workers and young employees [9]. Millennials and Gen Zers, as well as LGBTQ+, Black, and Latinx respondents were all significantly more likely to experience mental health symptoms [12]. Like Millennials and Gen Zers, caregiver respondents and members of historically underrepresented groups — including LGBTQ+, Black, and Latinx respondents — all were more likely to leave roles for their mental health and to believe that a company’s culture should support mental health [9]. There is a similar trend in the Philippine workspace where almost 1 in 4 Filipino workers have considered leaving their work because of the mental health burden they faced [11].

To support mental health in the workplace, it needs to start by having willingness and openness to talk about it. Having an open dialogue about mental health will empower employees to speak up and seek help if and when they need it [10]. Plus, when team members see their co-workers and leaders talking about their own mental health issues, it can make them feel less alone—which can make the process feel a bit easier to navigate [10]. The more you talk about mental health at work, the more your team will be willing to talk about it—and the better you can support them as a result [10].

While there is still a great deal to be done, some companies have made progress on the culture front, likely fueled by the pandemic [9]. Employers that have supported their employees with the pandemic, racial injustices, return-to-office planning, and/or mental health overall have better mental health and engagement outcomes [9]. Promoting autonomy, establishing boundaries, and creating norms around communications, responsiveness, and urgency can go a long way toward building a mentally healthy culture [9]. 

Further, employers should provide organization-wide opportunities for connection and also promote these ongoing, deeper one-on-one conversations between managers and direct reports as well as between colleagues [9]. “How are you?” should always be followed up with “How can I help you?” especially at the manager level [9]. The importance of empathy and authenticity cannot be overstated [9]. The future of workplace mental health demands culture change — with more vulnerability, compassion, and sustainable ways of working [9].

Mental Health during uncertainty 

Ask Yourself. Have you ever asked yourself about the things you have done this year and begin to wonder that they could have been any better? This should not account to hate yourself because the very goal in asking yourself is to resolve some of your few (or many) issues. Awareness is the key. This mental habit would mainly help you to sort things out about what you should do and who you should be.

This world is not as easy as black and white or good and bad but it is okay to remind yourself that you are not always right. That, when you begin to ask yourself about everything that makes you feel uncertain, think of the many things that you need to reconsider.

Mistakes and conflicts surely are inevitable to happen in our lives since not everything we plan, we succeed. Not everything we want to happen, they happen. And sometimes, this is the root when instead of asking ourselves where we have gone wrong, we belittle ourselves for they did not happen as much as we planned. We become miserable day after day.

But as most everybody says, life is too short to be miserable. You really do not have to spend your whole life asking yourself and just wait for something to happen and do nothing. What really matters is even when you know nothing, at least you are doing something because you know to yourself that the little hope within you will eventually ignite and save you.

Normalize Grieving. Everyone can contain something, yet everything is limited. You cannot have everything, and everyone cannot love you either. That is the reality. But that is also why most people cannot just easily accept when they are being rejected, or when they have experienced loss and suffering. Truth hurts, anyway. To normalize grieving constitutes to take up space—we have to recognize and embrace our weaknesses and learn from our loss and failures.

This is easier said than done, but if nothing has been said, nothing can be done.

Every winner or champion has felt the urge to quit. During their training and practices, they probably suffered a lot. Cried a lot. Failed a lot. Grieve a lot over something that they think they could never really do it, and their best was not just good enough. It took ages for them to realize what they lack. As time went by, they have eventually learned what needs to be done for them to achieve the results or outputs they want.

This case may be true for some people who have already experienced failures and hopelessness. But this also gave them the chance to strive and hope for the better. They chose to trust the process and put more effort into reaching their goals, and provided them the opportunity too, to understand that reaching their goals are only a part of continuous learning, growth, and excellence; not necessarily an end result.

Keep Trying.

How many times have you failed at school or landed a job? How many times have you been rejected by someone? How many times have they ignored your accomplishments or achievements? How many times have you been used by people for their own personal gain or advantage? These questions will probably make you wonder and cry because you just realize now how many times you have tried to pick yourself up and keep going. You have to acknowledge the fact that you cannot always stay positive and just get rid of negativity.

Just like the concept of “the backwards law”, terms used by Alan Watts, a British philosopher and writer, which mean that the more you pursue feeling better all the time, the less satisfied you become, as pursuing something only reinforces the fact that you lack it in the first place [13]. This idea was further explained by Mark Mason, a New York Times Bestselling Author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck and Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope, if pursuing the positive is a negative, then pursuing the negative generates the positive [13]. 

The pain you pursue in the gym results in better all-around health and energy [13]. The failures in business are what lead to a better understanding of what’s necessary to be successful [13]. Being open with your insecurities paradoxically makes you more confident and charismatic around others [13]. The pain of honest confrontation is what generates the greatest trust and respect in your relationships [13]. Suffering through your fears and anxieties is what allows you to build courage and perseverance [13].

Be a little bit gentler with yourself. It is okay if you cannot fully share your heart with the world, and cannot easily put on a brave and happy face all the time. There will still be days that life can be really tiring and oh-so draining, but you do not have to be any certain way for you to be loved. For now, forgive yourself. Keep that even the smallest hope you have. Keep trying.

Guide Questions

  1.   How can mental health affect daily living, relationships, and other aspects of health?
  1. What are your greatest and/or worst Mental Health moments this 2021? (addressing the first topic)
  2. Which mental health issue was most important to you in 2021?
  3. How would you like Mental Health to be perceived next year/moving forward? (third topic)

References:

[1] Tee, M. L., Tee, C. A., Anlacan, J. P., Aligam, K. J. G., Reyes, P. W. C., Kuruchittham, V., & Ho, R. C. (2020). Psychological impact of COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines. Journal of Affective Disorders, 277, 379–391. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2020.08.043

[2] Shaikh, A., Peprah, E., Mohamed, R. H., Asghar, A., Andharia, N. V., Lajot, N. A., & Qureshi, M. F. H. (2021). COVID-19 and mental health: A multi-country study—the effects of lockdown on the mental health of young adults. Middle East Current Psychiatry, 28(1), 51. https://doi.org/10.1186/s43045-021-00116-6

[3] Pietrangelo, A. (2020). Self destructive behavior: What it is & why we do it. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/self-destructive-behavior

[4] Lago, A. (2021). Study paints grim picture of some Filipino employees’ state of mental health. Rappler. https://www.rappler.com/life-and-style/health-and-wellness/filipino-employees-risk-suicide-mindnation-suicidal-ideation-study/

[5] MentalHealthPH. (2021). Creating Hope ASIA. https://mentalhealthph.org/9-10/

[6] Gunasegaran, T. (2021). Telemedicine provider reports high teleconsultation uptake in the Philippines. Healthcare IT News. https://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/asia/telemedicine-provider-reports-high-teleconsultation-uptake-philippines

[7] Bautista, J. (2021). DepEd launches mental health helpline for students, teachers. INQUIRER.Net. https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1521089/deped-launches-mental-health-helpline-for-students-teachers

[8] MentalHealthPH. (2021). Pandemic Futures. https://mentalhealthph.org/08-20/

[9] Greenwood, K., & Anas, J. (2021). It’s a new era for mental health at work. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2021/10/its-a-new-era-for-mental-health-at-work

[10] deBara, D. (2021). Why you should make mental health a priority in the workplace in 2021. https://www.hourly.io/post/mental-health-in-the-workplace

[11] Ibañez, J. (2021). Mental health problems weighing on PHL workforce, study finds. BusinessWorld Online. https://www.bworldonline.com/mental-health-problems-weighing-on-phl-workforce-study-finds/

[12] Baluyot, J. (2021). What the present and future hold for businesses and their people. https://ph.news.yahoo.com/what-the-present-and-future-hold-for-businesses-and-their-people-philippines-025646629.html

[13] Manson, M. (2016). The feedback loop from hell. https://markmanson.net/feedback-loop-from-hell

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