Western Visayas

Volunteers organize to take on mental health challenges in Negros Occidental

Reymund Titong

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Volunteers organize to take on mental health challenges in Negros Occidental

PROJECT ESSENCE. Psychology students and mental health advocates establish an initiative to help address mental health issues among the youth in Negros Occidental.

courtesy of Roy Javilla

The group conducts community-based sessions aimed at promoting mental well-being, reducing stigma, and empowering young people between the ages of 15 and 30 to lead healthy lives in Negros Occidental

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, Philippines – Psychology students and mental health advocates in Negros Occidental have formed an independent group called Project Essence to help young people in the province in coping with mental health challenges. 

The group conducts community-based mental health sessions aimed at promoting mental well-being, getting rid of stigma, and empowering young people between the ages of 15 and 30 to lead healthy lives.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) in Western Visayas has documented 36 suicide incidents in the region since January, noting a 28.57% increase over the 28 cases during the same period in 2022, reported by the Panay News.

The most number of cases were recorded in Negros Occidental at 13, followed by Aklan and Bacolod City with four cases each, and Antique, Capiz, Guimaras, Iloilo, and Iloilo City with three cases each.

Lyra Verzosa, a Leyte-based independent mental health practitioner, told Rappler on Monday, August 21, that the increase in suicide cases in Negros Occidental could be linked to various factors impacting mental health. She said many tend to conceal their inner struggles.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as a condition of mental well-being that enables people to manage life’s stresses, realize their potential, learn and work well, and contribute to their community.

WHO said more than 800,000 people die by suicide each year, a number that translates to one death in every 40 seconds. 

Versoza urged people to be conscious of the mental health of their friends and relatives, and not be afraid to seek help from mental health professionals. 

Roy Javilla, one of Project Essence’s volunteers, told Rappler that the project aims to help address mental health issues affecting young people between the ages of 15 and 30.

“In this age group, they are particularly susceptible to mental health issues because of academic pressures, peer pressure, identity exploration, and other life transitional stages,” he said. 

Their goal is to foster mentally healthy communities while collaborating with mental health professionals and experts.

The project’s pilot community was in Barangay Dancalan in Ilog town, more than 100 kilometers south of Bacolod City. 

Javilla is a psychology student at Kabankalan Catholic College and has been involved in several youth organizations supporting various causes, from education to human rights, good governance, and mental health. 

The initiative is working towards de-stigmatizing issues on mental health while keeping the public aware of the common mental health issues that young people confront emphasizing the value of getting assistance and treatment.

According to Javilla, the project teaches youth the value of living in the face of any obstacles they might encounter. 

During the sessions, questions are posed to the young participants on how their life experiences have shaped their way of life. 

A Philippine Daily Inquirer report showed that from 2021 to 2022, when the majority of schools were still closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 404 young students committed suicide across the country and 2,147 attempted suicide.

According to Graham Thornicroft, a professor of community psychiatry at King’s College London, 600 million people worldwide suffer from mental illnesses, with 85% of them living in nations with low or middle incomes

Less than 1% of health spending in low income countries and less than 2% in lower middle income countries goes toward mental health care. – Rappler.com

The Department of Health has national crisis hotlines to assist people with mental health concerns: 1553 (landline), 0966-351-4518, and 0917-899-USAP (8727) (Globe/TM); and 0908-639-2672 (Smart/Sun/TNT).

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