It’s Okay Not to be Okay: 

Coping with Mental Health Challenges in Times of Pandemic

by Julius Matthew M. Luzana

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 The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on the mental health of most Filipinos. It took the valuable time that we should have spent together with our family and friends and the plans and dreams that we should have continued pursuing. And if you feel stressed, depressed or anxious, ease on, because you are not alone in this fight. We could go through this together and sometimes, it’s okay not to be okay.

After decades of congressional discussion and senate hearings, the Republic Act No. 11036 or otherwise known as the Mental Health Act was passed, and successfully enacted into law. This law proposes a mental health policy that aims to enhance integrated mental health services, protection of people who use said services, and the establishment of a Philippine Mental Health Council. The said law wound want to incorporate a comprehensive mental health services into the country’s healthcare, for accessible mental healthcare especially to the impoverished and those at high risk.  

Thus, the Philippine National Center for Mental Health recommends five useful tips on coping with mental health in times of pandemic;

  1. CONNECT. Constant communication, having a strong support system and reassurance from our peers and family will keep us more engaged and more sane. We need to connect with people we trust, to address our concerns and how we are feeling. Viber, Messenger or WhatsApp applications are very helpful. 
  2. UNWIND. Trying to do some other activities that you enjoy, discovering a new skill, reinforcing a previously learned skill or learning a form of expressive art such as painting, poetry and playing instruments like piano or guitar would really go an extra mile. Expressive art is an excellent way to provide an emotional outlet using the creative process. 
  3. HAVE SOME BREAK. The information that is being loaded on our system on a daily basis can have detrimental effects on our mental wellbeing. We need to have some break from watching, reading or listening to new stories, including from social media. Hearing news about the pandemic repeatedly can be as equally upsetting. And if you’re struggling through online classes, alternative employment, or being a frontliner in itself, you also need to take a physical break from these stresses. 
  4. CATCH UP. While taking a lot of valuable time with our peers, the pandemic paved way to catch up with things, inspiring books, motivating series or “feel good” movies that we did not have the time to do before.
  5. TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY. Physical wellbeing is as important as one’s mental health. It is advisable to eat healthy and well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, hydrate one’s self well, avoiding prohibited drugs and alcohol, meditating, getting plenty of sleep and reading positive quotes. 

If you feel more stressed and anxious, please get in touch with a mental health professional through the NATIONAL CENTER FOR MENTAL HEALTH 24/7 CRISIS HOTLINE: 0917-899-USAP (8727) or 989-USAP (8727) or you can message the facebook page of the ZCMC Psychiatry Department. Tara, usap tayo! Again, remember that we are in this together and together, #WeHealAsOne.