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Be Kind, Always

Updated on October 30, 2019

Be Kind, Always

Nacho was a 22-year old firebrand UP student leader who committed suicide after receiving heavy bashing for his alleged involvement in a fraternity hazing. As it turned out that he was innocent of the incident, only after his death did it find out that he had been suffering from depression.

Nacho is just one of the many faces of mental illness. I should know as I have several friends who are battling with their demons. While I have gathered a lot of information from just listening to them, I am not claiming expertise in their situation. Each has different triggers; each comes from a myriad of causes. Each case is unique, and each has ways on how to survive from daily struggles.

Many times, my friends who have mental illness find themselves in difficult and unpleasant situations. One of my friends lost a managerial post for failing to show up to the office. She had a niggling feeling that she could spread out negativity among her teammates, which would affect the team's performance. Another friend chooses to slit his left wrist so he would be able to differentiate the real from the imaginary world. The pain produced by the wounds helps him go back to reality. Another friend gulped more than 30 sleeping pills to escape from the barrage of grim and gloomy images that constantly tormented her. The brightest in an English Studies batch, she almost lost her life if not for the wariness of her sister.

Over the years, I have learned that the list of my friends suffering from mental illness continues to grow. And the causes and their coping mechanisms expand. Respecting each case, I have noticed that one common thing is that they are all bubbly persons uncomfortable sharing their predicaments with others.

Mental illness is a condition that needs to be taken seriously with sensitivity. With the intensification of the competitiveness driven by capitalism, and with the accessibility to social media, the triggers for mental illness have become more prevalent. It is present in schools or the workplace, and it affects people regardless of class or status.

Detecting mental illness is hard. Symptoms are not clear-cut. People who have this would rather keep mum for fear of abandonment or misunderstanding should they declare it publicly.

If not immediately addressed, this could result in death. Kristel Tejada, a brilliant UP student, decided to end her life due to depression from poverty. Rockstars Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell died by suicide after battling depression for years. The poet Maningning Miclat jumped to death after failing to escape from the demons that haunted her for years. Even some of my friends are prone to committing suicide during their downtime.

In her essay, Social Media and Suicide, blogger and columnist Noemi Lardizabal-Dado shared the World Health Organization's study about suicide. The research revealed that close to 800,000 people died by suicide every year, which means that for every 40 seconds, one person commits and dies of suicide.

The columnist also quoted the findings from “Social Media and Suicide: A Public Health Perspective” conducted by David D. Luxton, Jennifer D. June, and Jonathan M. Fairall. The study highlighted that an increase in publicized cases of suicide in 2011 involved social media. Cited major causes of these suicides are cyberbullying, which is rampant in the virtual community.

The presence of mental illness extends even in the workplace. In the article "We Need to Talk More About Mental Health at Work" published in hbrascend.org, Morra Aarons-Mele pointed out that one in four employees experiences mental illness each year. This holds even to high-performing employees.

She also mentioned that the failure to acknowledge mental illness in the workplace could hurt productivity and professional relationships.

As most companies put more focus on measuring employees based solely on productivity, the number of cases of depression in the workplace increases. Pushing employees to hit impossible to attain targets for the sake of company revenue sets them to failure, which is a trigger of depression.

Mental illness is real, and it can affect anyone. As such, its prevention is everybody's business. The creation of a Facebook page Anxiety and Depression Support Philippines is one bold step to start extending hands to those who have depression.

The companies should also start looking into ways to take care of the mental health of their employees. Providing a conducive environment is one thing. Having a venue to attend to the concerns of those who are struggling with mental health would also be a big help.

But all these efforts would be in vain if people would not learn how to be attentive and sensitive to other's feelings. Empathy should be educated to erase the stigma our friends with mental illness have been facing. They need to feel a sense of belongingness; they need to feel valued. A little encouragement goes a long way. And this is not too much to ask from us.

The world has already lost Nacho, Kristel, Chester, Chris, Maningning, and many others. The clock is ticking; sharing our spare time with them would spare them from destruction. By putting into practice the basic teachings of our parents which is to be kind and compassionate to others, we save lives.

Be kind, always.

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