Shaping Our Future Together: Safeguarding Our Mental Health Together

Safeguarding Our Mental Health Together is the theme of the 5th series of Shaping Our Future Together webinar aired last October 24 via Zoom and Facebook live which garnered more than a thousand views mostly from educators and students residing in Metro Manila.

Mental health advocates and experts were selected as speakers for this episode. We have our very own GPF Senior Vice President, Aya Goto; Founder and President of Natasha Goulborn Foundation, Jean Goulborn; Asst. Director Institute of Spirituality and Formation Office of Ateneo de Davao University, FR. Jboy Gonzales SJ; Professional Counsellor and Psychotherapist, Charles Patrick Gamo; Moro Youth Leader from Datu Paglas, Maguindanao Global Ambassador, Yussef Abubakar Paglas; Managing Director of Consuelo Zobel Alger Foundation, Atty. Carmela Andal-Castro; and once again, Tristan Nodalo from CNN, as our moderator.

GPF Senior VP Goto believes that “Communication technology should be providing human connectivity”. In the digital age, people can easily interact with each other through the use of gadgets and internet connection. However, like any other advancements, there are positive and negative consequences. As humans were able to build a virtual community that connects everyone, crimes such as cyberbullying, identity fraud, scams, etc. have also emerged. These hurt other people and damage innocent lives. We need to feel the fundamental human connection, loving one another, to be empowered and help heal lives of other people. GPF’s One Family under God is a campaign to overcome hate to one another and promote peace for everyone beyond race, religion, and tribe. We need to treat each other as family to promote good mental health well-being.

Safe Schools: Promoting Health and Wellbeing in Schools is the first topic discussed. The stigma on mental health issues from before is still almost the same as before. In 2016, the Natasha Goulborn Foundation conducted a campus caravan to promote mental health well-being to achieve zero suicide cases. From this, they found out that active participation of the school admins and school affairs are very crucial in the talks about mental health.

“It is you, the youth, that hold the key and power to bringing our minds into a safe place”, (Goulborn, 2020). NGF is working on the modules for emotional resilience for teachers and students for the program called “Katatagan Program for the DepEd Grade 4 to 12 Modeling Resilience in the New Normal”. They also created a hotline called HopeLine Philippines, a 24/7 Suicide Prevention and Emotional Crisis Lines to provide emergency rescue services and connect high risk callers to NGF doctors, psychiatrists, and clinical psychologists. Due to Covid-19 pandemic, there’s a 220% rise in the number of calls they are receiving that is why we should always keep our minds open to deal with mental health issues.

“It takes a community to enhance mental health, promote resiliency, and prevent risks” because it develops our social and emotional strengths. In talking about mental well-being, we cannot separate valuing oneself and others so the community should be able to create a culture of care. A safe community: (1) Provides support; (2) Empowers; (3) Sets boundaries and expectations; (4) Creates opportunities for self-development; (5) Strengthens a commitment to learning; (6) Set positive values; (7) Develops social and leadership skills; (8) Influences a positive identity.

FR. Gonzales shared practical advices on caring for our mental health wellness based on his experiences from dealing with students and co-educators. They do data-based programs from the studies they conduct on their students and alumni so that they can make the best programs tailor-fit for them. By doing so, we can have better programs in enhancing mental health wellness of the youth. “Create a culture that values others and oneself” (Gonzales, 2020).

“All emotions and thoughts serve a purpose” which is to “live your life a little bit better”. They are suggestions and not commandments. It helps us distinguish the rights and wrongs in life to change. Negative emotions are calls to action, biological reactions that tells us something is not right or something should be done. Positive emotions are rewards for doing good actions. However, “not everything that feels good are good and not everything that feels bad is bad” (Gamo, 2020).

Gamo shared his therapeutic framework so one can protect his psychological space. (1) Acknowledge that one do not have effective control on his/her thoughts and feelings and that they exist; (2) Be mindful; (3) Take time for yourself. On this, he shared the steps on how to take time for one’s self: S. T. O. P.  S-stop/ step back; T- Take a deep breath; O-Observe; P-Proceed mindfully.

IYLA Ambassador Yussef Paglas shared a special message on he can relate mental health issues on his experiences as a youth leader in Datu Paglas. He suffered from anxiety disorder and faced a lot of challenges dealing with it. Him, being able to become a leader, is a result of his effort discover himself more and to change himself to be adapt in situations. In addition, he discussed how men do not get to talk about their mental state freely much because of some cultures and religion labeling these things as “unmasculine”. Based on his experience in his community, it is usual for people to suggest praying as solution for their mental health concerns, however, Paglas reminds them that prayer is one thing and we should also be able to provide concrete solutions to mental health problems.

As leaders of today, we should be able to voice out for people who cannot be heard to create a safe space to promote mental health wellness. We need to reach out to experts to create a safe community, safe schools, and safe conversations for mental health in far flung areas (Paglas, 2020).

The session was ended by the Atty. Andal-Castro of Consuelo Zobel Alger who shared her appreciation on the perspectives of each panelist. However, she reminded the viewers that the most important perspective is what’s within ourselves. We all learned a lot make the best out of this session, we should be able to reflect and apply these things to improve our mental health.

Not long ago, she participated in a spiritual 21-day retreat. From there, she learned 3 important things to improve our mental health: (1) we are all pilgrims in this journey of life; (2) every encounter in life can be a teacher; (3) travel light and let go of burdens. This may sound simple but it is a lot of work and the responsibility rests among our own self. Of course, we should remember that we can ask for help and guidance from others.

#SafeSpaceSameSpace is a campaign to highlight the role of youth in promoting safe schools, safe environment, and safe conversations.

This webinar series aims to encourage young people and organizations to put our heads together to define how enhanced international cooperation can help realize a better world. This is co-organized with Consuelo Zobel Alger Foundation and in support to the 75th anniversary of the United Nations with the theme ‘Shaping Our Future Together’.

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