A strong advocate for mental health awareness and wellness, Upjohn, a Pfizer division, led a discussion on the state of mental health landscape in the Philippines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a press briefing entitled “Adapting to the new normal: A Dialogue on mental health, resilience, and hope,” Upjohn invited the media for a discussion on mental wellness as Filipinos transition to the “new normal.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic can be stressful for people, affecting our mental wellbeing, so we wanted to continue the conversation on how we can take care of our mental health at a time when there’s confusion, fear, and anxiety, 1” said Upjohn Philippines General Manager Melissa Comia. “The way we live now is different, from our ways of working to going mostly virtual in our social interactions. Adapting to this new way of living has brought about emotional distress2 and many Filipinos are affected5.”
Guest speaker Dr. Robert Buenaventura, Consultant Psychiatrist at UERM Memorial Medical Center and a Life Fellow of the Philippine Psychiatric Association, explains, “Fear, worry, and anxiety are common responses to a major health crisis, together with other known psychological reactions such as stress, loneliness, and agitation3,4.”
In the Philippines, the National Center for Mental Health saw a jump in the number of daily calls they’ve been receiving since the lockdown took effect –from an average of 13-15 daily calls from May 2019 to February 2020 to 30-35 daily calls from March to May 2020.5 Dr. Buenaventura also shared the preliminary results of their survey on the “Psychosocial Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Mental Health of Elderly Filipinos” which showed that 8% of respondents exhibited moderate to moderately severe anxiety and 9% of respondents exhibited moderate to moderately severe depression.6
“People with pre-existing depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders are at risk of experiencing higher anxiety levels during the COVID-19 outbreak7,” Dr. Buenaventura added. “They may require more support or access to mental health treatment during this period7, and this has become a strong concern for mental health experts. Maintaining good mental health has always been important, but it has become even more important today.”
Dr. Buenaventura’s presentation concluded with practical tips on how Filipinos can build resilience as the pandemic continues to shape and change our ways of living. By building resilience, people can adapt in the face of adversity, threats, trauma, and tragedy.8
Among the things that can be done to build resilience is being more self-aware; this enforces awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses9, resulting to better understanding of oneself. Despite what’s happening in the world right now, remaining hopeful is important – looking toward the future and accepting change makes it easier to face challenges with less anxiety10. Practicing self-care is also beneficial to one’s mental health10. Tend to your needs and feelings, spend time on hobbies, get plenty of sleep, meditate, and practice stress management and relaxation techniques10.
Keeping communication lines open is another important coping strategy, so check in on loved ones confined at home who may feel lonely and isolated11. Get involved with random acts of kindness – there is joy in helping and supporting communities in need12.
In these difficult times, lend ears to listen, lend hands to help. Share words of encouragement and share stories of inspiration.