College and mental health
For consecutive months, more friends and fellow students from the university have confided their struggles with depression and anxiety. Still, a number hide them. Some had themselves diagnosed, some fear to do so. There are several reasons why more are compelled to do the latter. One reason is stigma, brought about by different social circumstances.
This is understandable, with the evident prejudice in the Philippines toward mental health issues. I cite the online responses to the suicide of a student of De La Salle University. Netizens belittled the troubles that pushed her to jump from a high floor to her death. People feel the need to legitimize reasons for mental health struggles, like depression or anxiety, in a manner that cripples rather than encourages. Another student my age attempted suicide last semester, and was brave to open up about it on social media. This openness, I believe, helps address the stigma. More importantly, I believe this openness helps the struggling person.
Unfortunately, others cannot accept or be open about their struggles due to their socioeconomic status. For some, the priority of merely being concerned about the matter seems to be the main issue. For example, one friend opened up to parents about depression, and was told to control it because of the need to graduate in order to meet immediate financial needs at home. Another decided to be discreet about anxiety, for fear of adding to the family’s troubles.
How does one approach the toss-up between economic and psychological needs?
On the other hand, I am not dismissing that those with comfortable lives cannot have depressive symptoms or episodes of anxiety. Many people do not realize this, and are often surprised or scoff at cases of depression or anxiety among those financially at ease.
I have tried to comfort friends struggling with anxiety or depression, and have felt helpless afterwards. With the mind battling itself, sometimes external forces can only do so much. Most of the time all one can do is listen, hoping it will be enough.
It may be that discussing mental health issues helps not only those who are struggling but also the people around them who want to help. Another friend expressed the joy of having a supportive social circle, after being diagnosed with major depressive disorder. This friend’s thesis adviser once said, “You should save yourself.”
There is a need for intensive enlightenment on, and an informed collaborative effort to cope with, mental health issues, involving the people who struggle with them and the people around them. Among the latter, there is a need to restrain judgment and, more than ever, a need to listen.
Carmela Kris Aguda Armilla, 20, is a development communication senior at the University of the Philippines Los Baños.
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