by RONALYN BANAKEN
UB Senior High students participated in the forum, which included a plenary session where the participants crafted project proposals aimed at scaling discussions on mental health in the region. (Photograph: Janine Javier/UB-MAP)
We live in a culture that emphasizes resilience and humor amidst pain... This makes it all the more difficult to talk about depression out in the open.
This was among the key points that were explored at a forum on suicide prevention at the University of Baguio (UB) Gym last Nov. 23.
Speaking before an audience composed of UB Senior High School students, Prof. Jojet Lamberto Mondares, a professor at the Philippine Military Academy, delivered a lecture which focused on dealing with people with depression, specifically those who are experiencing suicidal ideation or suicidal thoughts, as research has consistently shown a strong link between suicide and depression.
Meanwhile, Psychology instructor Merly Shannae Mirabueno spoke on the risk factors for suicide.
Why talking about depression matters
“You aren’t really depressed. Other people have it much worse than you. You’re fine.”
This can be almost a commonplace thing you’ll hear if you’ve confided in someone about your depression. In their respective lectures, Prof. Mondares and Mirabueno both pointed out the same premise: You cannot see what is going on in someone’s head. The psychological torture that depression puts you through isn’t something to be written off just because someone has had a normal life, or a less “horrible” life. We should not constantly write off depression. Let us talk more about it.
In her book “I Was Here,” American award-winning and New York Times-bestselling author Gayle Forman illustrated an example:
In the first, a 17-year-old with leukemia has to miss several weeks of school.
In the second, a 17-year-old with depression has to miss several weeks of school.
Are you more sympathetic to one than the other? Does one have a real disease, and the other, something else – something which is not quite life-threatening?
Does it matter that both conditions are disorders, both thought to be caused by something that has snapped on a genetic or biochemical level (leukemia when blood cells acquire mutations; depression when neurotransmitters are out of balance)? Does it matter that both are quite treatable and both are potentially lethal?
The overwhelming majority of people who take their own lives – 90% or more – have a mental disorder at the time of their deaths, the most common being depression.
Does it matter? It should.
Warning signs of suicide
In Mirabueno’s talk, the warning signs of and risk factors for suicide were hammered on.
“Most people do not commit suicide on the spur of the moment. Usually, there are warning signs,” she noted.
Some signs, according to her, include threats or hints of suicide; marked changes in personality, eating and sleeping patterns; persistent feelings of gloom and helplessness; withdrawal from social contact; engaging in self-destructive things such as drug use; giving away belongings or getting affairs in order when there is no other logical explanation for doing such; and saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again, among others.
“The safest thing one can do if he or she feels suicidal is to reach out for help and tell a trusted someone about it. Get rid of whatever can harm you at the moment – a knife, rope, pills, etc. – and turn to other activities,” Mirabueno stressed.
Preventing suicidal thoughts
Prof. Mondares and Mirabueno both emphasized the following points in fighting off suicidal thoughts.
When you feel a suicidal thought creeping up, just tell yourself that you can get through it and that you’ll have better days. Think of all the people who love and care about you. It’s natural to think that no one cares, but this is rarely the case.
Think of all the things you have yet to do. The next time you feel like ending your life, think about all of the things you have ahead of you, and you’ll see that you have so many more experiences to soak up before your life is over.
Find a distraction. Finding a way to distract yourself, from doing yoga to sharing a cup of tea with a close friend, can help you avoid suicidal thoughts. If you’re focused on something else that you care about, even if it's just something silly that takes your mind off of your worries, then you’ll be in a better place.
Make a gratitude list. Though it may sound corny, making a list of all of the things you have to be thankful for, from your best friend to your physical health, or even the sunlight, can help you remember all of the reasons you want to live. When you're having suicidal thoughts, you can peruse your list and you’ll see that you have many reasons to live.
Talk to a doctor or a therapist. You can only get help once you decide to move forward and get help.
What to do when someone shows suicidal signs
Mirabueno’s lecture also touched on what one can do when someone shows signs of suicide. “Do not ignore them in the hope that they are not for real. Do not leave them alone, and stay with them until other friends or relatives can come. It is important that you stay calm and supportive,” she said.
In general, she said therapy is essential in treating the feelings of depression and hopelessness that give rise to thoughts of suicide. Treatment only works if it is sought out, she said.
Concluding with the following thought, she said, “You are not alone. You are stronger than your thoughts. You matter, you are good enough, and you are loved. And at your darkest hour, reach out for help.”
The activity was organized by the Youth for Mental Health Coalition-CAR and the Progressive Youth Association on Mental Health Baguio-Benguet Chapter in coordination with the UB Senior High School Psychology Department and the UB Media Affairs and Publications Office. It is part of the University’s depression awareness campaign, which UB launched in March.
Gayle Forman penned, “In order that people who suffer from depression seek treatment without a second thought, the stigmas must further fall until we reach a point in time when that person with leukemia and that person with depression both receive the same level of sympathy and the same level of rigorous treatment. Both people deserve it.”
Prof. Jojet Lamberto Mondares, a professor at the Philippine Military Academy, discussed how depressed
individuals can be better dealt with in his talk. (Photograph: UB-AVR)
Psychology instructor Merly Shannae Mirabueno spoke on the risk factors for suicide during the forum. (Photograph: UB-AVR)
Sue Ellen Cubing, who finished as top 9 in the nationwide talent search “Pinoy Idol,” also performed at the forum, showcasing her interpretation of the
Clean Bandit's "Symphony," Matisyahu's "One Day," and Rachel Platten's "Fight Song," all in a soulful stripped-down version. She also performed
Colbie Caillat's "Try," Tori Kelly's "Unbreakable Smile," and Corinne Bailey Rae's "Put Your Records On."
(Photographs: Janine Javier/UB-MAP)