Behind the Mask: Understanding Mental Health

First of three parts

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Peter* is peeved; no, more than peeved.  In fact, by the looks of him, he was ready to murder somebody.  His professor had just refused to change his grade (“I earned it!”), claiming that Peter missed a major requirement.  His pulse raced along with his thoughts: What will his parents say?  How can he maintain that high enough average so he would still be recognized in the honors’ list for the semester (he came from a family of academic achievers, so THAT is rather important)?

He was so distracted he didn’t realize how high-strung he was until the bell rang and he nearly hit the student passing by, almost giving her a black eye, that poor soul.

“On hindsight, I knew I was being unreasonable,” Peter tells DNX, adding, “but at that time I didn’t care.  I was irritable, I was under a lot of pressure from my parents to get grades not lower than 90, and I was dreading the time when I had to explain to them whyI had a line of eight in one of my major subjects.”

Little did Peter know that what he was displaying was just one side of the condition that he was later diagnosed with: Bipolar Disorder.

His episodes of high energy, his distractibility, his overflowing confidence are sometimes alternating with periods of lethargy, of extreme exhaustion, of falling deeper and deeper into an emotional chasm, of extreme cases of existential crises.

There were times, for instance, that he would shun friends, that he would turn own a round of Mobile Legends, when he would just lie and bed sans any desire to get up or see anybody, not even his best friend.

His teachers were among the first to see change in him, and it was his hated teacher we introduced earlier that referred him to a clinical psychologist who made the diagnosis. 

But the diagnosis was just the first step in the process of his recovery.  He needed medication, treatment, therapy, all of which require resources.  With a government employee for a father and a plain housewife for a mom, forking out an additional P15,000 per month for the meds alone is too steep a price to pay for his mental health, literally.

The high cost of mental wellness is taking a toll on Peter’s nerves, triggering episodes that alternate between mania and depression.  Plus, quitting school is out of the question, and certain teachers would not want to make mental health issues as an excuse for delayed submission of projects and assignments.

MENTAL HEALTH A PRIORITY

There could well be hundreds of Peters in Negros Occidental today, but because of their dire economic conditions, most of them go undiagnosed.  Or in the case of Peter, diagnosed but untreated.

And so when Bacolod lone representative Cong. Greg Gasataya filed House Bill 6768 or the Universities and Colleges Mental Health Act, students in State Universities and Colleges with mental health issues and disorders were given hope. 

Now refiled as HB573, the measure pushed to “recruit, hire, and train additional university-based mental health personnel”.  This would also mean addressing mental, emotional and development needs of students in SUCs as well as providing support to parents in ensuring academic success to students.

(To be continued.  For our next installment, we will know about Y4MH – Bacolod chapter and Cong. Greg Gasataya’s bill.

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