TW: mentions of intentional self-harm. If you are having thoughts of suicide, know that help is always here. You are not alone. Call the National Center For Mental Health 24/7 Crisis Hotline 1553, 0917 899 8727(USAP), and/or 7-989-8727 (USAP).
Veteran host Boy Abunda trended Sunday throughout Monday for his appearance during the Binibining Pilipinas 2021 coronation night. As one of the celebrity guest panelists, Abunda had asked a question that perplexed thousands in pageant-crazed Philippines.
"Ngayon madalas nating naririnig, it's okay to not be okay. My question is, when is it okay not to be okay? And when is it not okay to be not okay?," Abunda asked Binibini No. 15 Karen Laurrie Mendoza.
Mendoza, who hails from Iloilo, of course, had no choice but answer in no more than 30 seconds. In true beauty queen fashion, she borrowed a fitting quote from a movie for her quick-witted answer.
"You know sometimes it's hard to move on especially that if we lost our loved ones, when we're depressed, when we have anxiety, but most of all, when we want to move forward in life. You know my favorite saying in a movie, Disney Inside Out is embrace your sadness, because in embracing your sadness, you will feel happiness afterwards," she said.
Hashtag #TitoBoy trended as a result. Netizens were reminded of how the "King of Talk" could send hearts racing with his tough "showbiz questions" except this time, it was a question on mental health--one that is valid, but always difficult to deal with (more so if you do it on live TV).
Though Mendoza did not come home with any crown, she was given the Miss Pizza Hut special award. Netizens also commended her for doing her best in answering Abunda's difficult question.
Pressures of beauty pageants aside, reportr turned to a clinical psychologist for answers. When is it really okay to be not okay and when is it not okay to be not okay?
First question first: when is it okay to be not okay?
According to Joseph Marquez, such is the case if something bad or tragic happened to you. Naturally, it's alright for someone to grieve or be sad because that is part of the human experience.
"Kumbaga, suffering is a part of life. So we are allowed to feel that way kasi 'yun yung narararamdaman natin talaga," Marquez said, noting it can also be true even for "minor" inconveniences.
Not feeling okay is "actually a good indication of your mental health kasi nakaka-adapt ka sa bawat pangyayari sa buhay mo, especially those that make you feel sad. So that is when it's okay to not be okay," he said.
But when is it not okay to be not okay?
One's suffering is no longer "normal" when it comes to a point when they're self-destructive, said Marquez.
Self-destruction can be many things, including having thoughts of intentional self-harm or suicide. At this point, one is a already danger to themself, he said, noting they must already seek professional help or at the very least, find someone they can trust to open up to with their problem.
"'Yung for a long period of time, you have these depressive episodes, when you feel no motivation at all, you feel worthless, useless to the point na nagseself-pity ka na, and yung tipong lahat ng interes mo dati na gustong-gusto mong gawin, hindi mo na siya magawa. Those are the times na kumbaga wala ka nang lakas to do anything, definitely, not being okay is no longer okay at this point," he said.
Recognizing when one has reached that point is key to recovering. Even more important: knowing when to seek help, and giving yourself the freedom to do so.
"A lot of people, they're try do self-help. Wala namang problema 'yun if it can really help them. But if they feel na what they're doing on their own is no longer helping, they should seek a professional already: a therapist, a psychiatrist, or a counselor, depending on their need," Marquez said, noting one doesn't even need to be pre-diagnosed with a mental illness for them to seek help.
"Kahit just to help you make sense lang of what's happening to you. Kasi minsan talaga, we get caught up with our own thoughts and hindi na tayo nakakaalis doon, nagdedwell lang tayo. Maybe someone else can really help us, or guide us, para ma-snap back tayo sa reality kasi with so many things going on, we tend to overthink and it's hard to get out of that by yourself," he said.
The pandemic for one, is not normal. In September of last year, the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) reported a five-fold increase in distress calls to its hotline to 400 from 80 a month (before the quarantine started last March).
This underscores COVID-19's toll on more than just the physical health, having spawned conditions that are not in anyway healthy for the individual and even as a collective society.
"Once na matagal mo na siyang nararamdaman, mahirap kasing sabihin na normal 'to eh. When we feel very uncomfortable and napapagod ka na sa ganyang pakiramdam, you should really talk to someone," Marquez said.
While many clinics have started offering free telepsychotherapy services, on a nationwide scale, the country still has a long way to go in making mental health services accessible, especially to the less privileged.
Advocates hope that RA 11036 or the Mental Health Act, which heeded the call for a national policy on mental health awareness, is delivering for it.
The clinical psychologist cited in this story, Joseph Marquez, RPsy, is based in Taytay, Rizal. His services can be accessed online. You may contact him through his page.