Topnotchers push for mental health awareness in Iloilo

By: Emme Rose Santiagudo

The increasing number of suicide cases in the city and province of Iloilo is proof of the need for Ilonggos to raise their awareness on the importance of mental health.

This was emphasized by two graduates from the University of the Philippines Visayas (UPV) in Miagao, Iloilo who both landed in the top 10 spots of the 2019 Psychometrician Licensure Examination.

Adrian Rigor and Zenell Ligahon, both cum laude graduates of Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in UPV, clinched the 7th and 10th spots with ratings of 85.20 and 84.60 percent, respectively.

Ligahon, 20, expressed alarm over increasing suicide cases in Iloilo.

“This rapid spike in the rates of suicide in Iloilo is very unfortunate. This shows that it is indeed imperative to raise awareness on the importance of mental health. This is a subject matter that is not yet understood by many and is further complicated by the stigma that surrounds it,” she told Daily Guardian on Tuesday.

Rigor shared Ligahon’s sentiments as he also underscored the need for an intensified campaign on the importance of mental health.

“We hope na tani there should be public health awareness through mental health forums and talks and especially sa barangay level kay dira gid mostly naga-stem ang lack of awareness especially in the family setting,” he stressed.

From January 2019 to November, the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) recorded 16 suicide incidents in the city while the Police Regional Office (PRO)-6 noted 59 suicide incidents in Iloilo province from January to August 2019.

According to Ligahon, mental health is as important as physical health.

“Mental health is important. It should not be limited to just a demographic. It is important in every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. It impacts every aspect of our life and functioning. And the reason it is important is because it is our overall health and well-being that’s involved. Like with physical health, we need medical attention when we’re sick,” she said.

To help end the stigma on seeking help from mental help professionals, Ligahon emphasized the importance of “talking” to someone.

“The simple answer really is ‘talk’. By keeping the narrative going, we can raise awareness, and slowly eliminate the stigma associated with mental health,” she said.

Rigor stressed that persons who suffer from mental health issues should not be afraid to seek help from professionals.

“Never get scared of asking for professional help. Kay dako ang stigma sa mental health issue, tani ma-understand sang people nga mental health is like physical health man na dapat gina-alagaan naton,” he furthered.

Recently, the Iloilo City Police Station 2 and its District Advisory Council partnered for the establishment of a teen center that will serve as venue for persons suffering from anxiety and depression. It will also extend help in addressing teenage pregnancies in the city.

Rigor said passing the Psychometrician Licensure Exam means that they also have a responsibility to spread awareness on the importance of mental health.

“I think this board exams provided hope for many people especially that there will be more and more people that will be part of mental health care in the Philippines. I hope that people that passed will really use their license to help other people. Our license gives us a responsibility to make people aware of mental health, depression, suicide because these things should not be taken lightly,” he shared.

Rigor said he plans to teach in local universities and do research on mental health issues.

“Hopefully makakuha ko masters and maging registered Psychologist. I want to also be in the clinical setting para maka-provide pa gid ko help for their need,” he shared.

Ligahon said she plans to attend law school next year but in the long run she also plans to get a master’s degree in clinical psychology.

“I plan to go to law school this August 2020 but that doesn’t mean that I’ll be leaving psychology for good. I never will. This field that I have so much love for will always be a part of me. As long as life and finances allow it, I don’t think I’ll ever stop wanting to study this field. I plan to get a master’s degree in clinical psych once I finish law school and maybe even get a PhD after that,” she shared.

Aside from Rigor and Ligahon, Francene Khaira Zulueta of Saint Paul University in Iloilo also landed on the 10th spot of the Psychometrician Licensure Exam after scoring 84.60 percent.

If you need help or immediate assistance, you can call 321-5160/ 321-2841 local 186 (Western Visayas Medical Center); 320-2431 (West Visayas University Medical Center); and the hotlines DOH Adolescent Health CONNECT: 09985324047 (Smart), 09177759256 (Globe), and 09255469919 (Sun).