Business & Mental Health

Mind You represents the Philippines in the ASEAN-Australia Mental Health Civil Society Cooperation Event

Mind You joins others and sets the example for “sharing is caring”

Last Wednesday, November 17, Mind You’s Head of Sales Anna Roxas and Marketing Communications Manager Sandra Oledan Rodriguez were invited to the ASEAN-Australia Mental Health Civil Society Cooperation Event as the representative delegates for the Philippines.

The event was hosted by Australia and Brunei, the ASEAN Chair, with the goal of increasing cooperation on mental health and to build the capacity of ASEAN member states to address mental health concerns, which have been exacerbated or created by the ongoing pandemic. There is a mutual understanding that in order for the mental healthcare industry to thrive, we must optimise our resources through information-sharing and collaboration.

The program commenced with presentations from Australia, Brunei and Malaysia’s Civil Society Organisations (CSOs): Professor Patrick McGorry, Executive Director of Orygen, discussed the challenge of reaching vulnerable groups and demographics, and linking people with mental ill-health to support.

Dr. Andrew Mohanraj Chandrasekaran, President of the Malaysia Mental Health Association, spoke next on how to utilise technology to expand reach. He pointed out the value of mental health apps with features like passive symptom tracking. For instance, a mobile device that can detect the number of times messages are sent, vocal tone during calls, and gather data to conclude whether a mental health professional needs to be alerted. However, there are some limitations that need to be considered. The uptake of these apps are unlikely to extend beyond urban areas. Additionally, such apps may encourage users to adopt a simplistic view of mental health conditions; a belief that this app can simply ‘solve’ what turns out to be a very serious mental health problem. We must also consider the regulation that is needed for mental health technologies, and whether developing countries such as the Philippines are ready to accommodate that level of monitoring and enforcement.

Ms. Hajah Noara, Founder of Cureheart, elaborated on the prevalence of stigmas and gave examples on the misconceptions most common in Brunei, which we found bore striking similarities to the preconceived notions surrounding mental health in the Philippines.

To end the round of presentations was Katherine Newton, CEO of R U OK? Australia, where she emphasised the importance of marrying a top-down and bottom-up approach: formal care such as access to therapy sessions combined with more informal care methods such as mental health tool kits and social media campaigns are necessary to thoroughly transform mental health at every level in society.

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The main group was then split into breakout rooms to discuss the following topics:

  • Raising public awareness of mental health issues and changing community attitudes
  • Linking people with mental health conditions to support services, and
  • Using technology to expand the reach of mental health CSOs.

The topics built on the presentations, and initiated interesting discourse between the delegates. While the conversations were diverse in content, similar points were highlighted: namely, the importance of multi-sectoral collaboration and the prevalence of cultural and religious stigmas and socio-economic barriers. Additionally, delegates spoke about the unique challenge of our advocacy: our target audience is, effectively, everyone, which means a lot of time and due diligence needs to go into crafting the message we send out to the world. We are not simply selling a product or service; we are teaching to empower and inspire in the hopes that people will make changes in their lives and pass it on.

Ultimately, it is our responsibility to not only raise public awareness on mental health issues, but bridge the gap between awareness and action. It was clear that the delegates kept this at the forefront of their strategies when executing their respective initiatives and programs. For instance, R U OK? creates conversational tool kits to educate people on how to speak about mental health with their loved ones, using easy-to-follow steps and visually engaging images. Thailand’s representative, Dr. Varoth Chotpitayasunondh, spokesperson for the Department of Health and child and adolescent psychiatrist, addressed that mental health challenges are being effectively addressed at a community level via their Village Health Volunteer program: a representative is assigned per community, and it lowers the barrier to initiate conversations with them because he or is she is already someone the individual knows, and the volunteer is also accustomed to the language and culture of the specific community.

While there is still a lot of work to be done, we are hopeful in our objective of achieving intergenerational transformation – not just for the Philippines, but across all of our nations. One of Mind You’s main highlights this year was our inaugural National Mental Health Summit, which invited key decision makers, members of government and mental health advocates to discuss the state of mental health in the Philippines and the action steps needed to effect long-lasting change. Speakers included the author of the Mental Health Act, Senator Risa Hontiveros, Chief Health Program Officer of the Department of Health, Frances Cuevas, and sports psychologist of Olympic Gold Medal winner Hidilyn Diaz, Karen Trinidad. The event was a success, reaching over 80,000 people across the country and internationally. It is by creating spaces like these that facilitate the much-needed conversations we need to have surrounding mental health.

[From left to right] Miguel Valdez, Head of Operations at Mind You and CEO of Vanguard Assessments; Dr. Dinah Palmera Nadera, Medical Specialist and Project Leader; Rea Celine Villa, Senior Psychologist at Mind You; Michael J. Needham, Co-Founder & Chief Strategy Officer at Mind You during the Summit panel discussion.

On this note, we would like to thank ASEAN, and the Australian and Bruneian governments for providing a platform for collaboration to take place beyond the national level. We look forward to connecting with the CSO participants soon!

Mind You aims to transform our culture and empower people to take control of their mental health and live more fulfilled lives. We take pride in lifting away the stigma, lowering counseling costs and providing increased access to mental health care for all Filipinos.

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