When I was in college, and this was before mental health awareness campaigns (campaigns back then could only be found in religious magazines), I remember writing a “Term Paper” (or intensive Research Paper) about people suffering from depression and how it sometimes leads to tragedies like hurting themselves, worst, self-inflicted deaths. And, by saying college days, I meant circa 2001! It only goes to show that mental health issues have always been around us, buried in our society, rarely diagnosed as a legitimate health concern and almost always left untreated, neglected even. Remember the late Diana, Princess of Wales? Remember that unexplainable sadness you or someone you know experienced after giving birth? Remember that hopelessness you or someone you know felt when he/she lost someone he or she loves? When he/she lost his career? When his/her heart got broken? When he/she felt so sad, alone, helpless for no apparent reason?
I have had my own shares of dark, darker, then darkest days. To name a few, I’ve been terribly sad or maybe depressed when I failed in school, which in turn disappointed my parents; when my migration didn’t take off as planned, when my career dwindled, when I had postpartum depressions each time I’ve given birth, and many other instances, some of which seemed shallow from others’ perspective but nonetheless unexplainably broke me apart.
How to battle these self-harming thoughts? How to properly address deep sadness, disturbing harmful thoughts and sense of hopelessness? Unlike with what I did with my term paper more than a decade ago, I now won’t pretend I know what people with mental issues are going through. I won’t pretend I hold the solutions. What I believe is that EVERYONE IS WORTHY. EVERYONE IS ENOUGH. EVERYONE IS LOVED. Always take care of yourselves. Talk to someone. Pray. Seek help. Do not be embarrassed. Many people are willing to listen to you. You are loved. The world is a better place with you in it. Do not ever forget that. Find your worth in other people. There are so many who need you, us, your help, our help. If you need to talk to someone or if you know someone who needs help, you may contact these numbers: (02) 805-HOPE (4673); 0917 558 HOPE (4673) and 2919. These numbers are toll-free for GLOBE and TM subscribers.
Kaya mga mommies, another big challenge for us is how to raise mentally healthy kids in this world where everything is moving fast and where access to every information is right under their fingertips. This world has been giving us easy and quick gratifications but they have stolen from us our patience and contentment. Here are the few steps I take to take care of my kids’ mental health:
I still believe that proper nutrition leads to good brain development. If they are physically fit and their brain is properly nourished then I believe they will have greater chances of thinking clearly. Unlike kapag gutom sila or undernourished, it will manifest I’m sure in their behaviors and generally, in their attitude towards others and outlook in life.
Motivation not Pressure. I always keep in mind not to pressure my kids into anything like getting high grades in school, making it in the honor class or perfecting exams. It is tempting, believe me. And, I had my lapses since that is the traditional upbringing of Filipino kids. But, change we must if we want the future men and women of this country to be mentally fit and stable. However, Try other methods to motivate them to give their best in every endeavor they take, like by giving simple rewards. Right now, I want them to be motivated by their dreams and mini goals. I’m teaching them to aspire for something big. Thanks to the movie, The Greatest Showman, it has become easier to explain things like dreams, hard work, and humility to them.
As parents, we try to provide them with a holistic environment. That includes a functional home that makes them feel safe and secured and a harmonious living of the people surrounding them. A sense of belonging to a community is also important. Not everything though needs to be perfect as in! But, God, respect, and love must always be present where they are especially in their formative years.
Balance things out. This is a challenge for me as a working mom. Most weekends, I get too lazy to bring them out or to engage them in other activities. Thank goodness they are surrounded by many cousins, I do not worry so much about their social skills. But, I want to expose them slowly to other far greater things in life. I want to awaken the adventurist in them. I want to exploit their young spirits of awe and wonder. So, yeah. I try to schedule diverse activities for them. I bring them to malls but I also let them play and run in the grass. I enrolled them in summer classes and as early as now, I’m saving up for their swimming lessons, ballet, and taekwondo lessons. Pero syempre, kung gusto nila or kung ano pa ang gusto nila. They have expensive toys but they also love DIY stuff.
Open communication. I find it essential that we, parents, maintain a secure and reliable relationship with our children by keeping our communication lines always open. I try not to shut down their thoughts, emotions, and ideas. I want them to know that what they say is important for us. I make sure that they know we will always be there for them; ready to listen and lend a hand. That we will support them without tolerance of any wrongdoings. I want them to feel that they can tell us anything and everything. That they can absolutely trust us and we’re not going to betray them nor leave them behind because we’re their parents and we love them unconditionally. That unconditional love should offer them a sanctuary.
Despite helping them stand on their own feet or helping them discover their wings to fly, I also want them grounded. I want them to choose to live life like they are truly alive and at the same time appreciate every passing moment of it. Ultimately, I want them to realize that they are worthy, they are enough, they are loved and so are the others. Yes, the others. I want them not to forget about the others and that there are other worthy, enough and loved people around them. All equally beautiful souls in the eyes of one God.