Trigger warning: Mentions of suicide and depression
“Therapist? Ba’t kailangan mo ng therapist? Eh, pang-baliw lang ’yun.”
That’s what my mother told 13-year-old me when I sought help. Since freshman year of high school, I drowned depression deep into my subconscious. The only time I tried dealing with it was when I told my mother. Too bad she shut it down quickly by saying depression will pass and prayers are my only salvation.
Religious families can instill that mindset in you. But this “dasal dasal lang talaga” mentality can only get you so far.
Let me introduce myself properly: Hi, I’m Rogin. I’m an overachieving creative and I’ve been dealing with clinical depression for 11 years now. I went through multiple attempts and breakdowns. My first was when my dad had his first ischemic stroke. After that, I tried several times again throughout the years. None of them were successful.
And during a global pandemic, I tried ending my life once again.
On Apr. 29, in the middle of the lockdown, the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) warned us that our depression cases are on the rise. Two hundred people have called their 24-hour hotline since the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) started. Within those statistics, you can find my name on the list.
I’m lucky enough to be earning in a global recession. Still, what is money worth when you’re drowning in uncertainty and political unrest?
I never expected this pandemic will be my wakeup call to seek professional help. But when Miss ’Rona disconnects you from your support system and loved ones, you can only ignore your needs for so long. They say human beings can survive three weeks without water. Not sure if untreated depression has the same longevity.
Like any employee during the pandemic, it all became too much. I’m lucky enough to be earning in a global recession. Still, what is money worth when you’re drowning in uncertainty and political unrest?
I started to break somewhere along the line. Without a support system, I went back to exorcising demons I can’t even see.
Another attempt happened after my breakdown. After just one night, I dealt with workdays with robotic efficiency, reserving lunchtime for crying spells. I opened up to my workmates to justify the fuckery of my work-life balance, not exactly looking for a solution to fix myself.
During our heart-to-heart session, one of them suggested: “Have you tried calling the suicide hotline?” And the answer is no, no I haven’t.
Literally calling out for help is… weird. If you’re like me who’s often the caretaker in any friend group, it’s hard to see the tables turned. I prefer to keep the tables in place. Yet the universe never gives us what we want all the time anyway.
“Anyone can call the Lifeline, whether they are thinking about suicide or not, and get emotional support. There is no minimum age, and you can receive support at any time,” writes Buzzfeed News. “As long as you have a phone, you can call the number and talk to someone.”
Dialing the hotline was easy—mustering up the courage was hard. When I decided to make the call, it took me three attempts before I was brave enough to say: “Hello, is this the hotline? I need help. I’m not okay.” It’s really easier said than done.
But guess what? You’d thank yourself in the end for taking the step.
Calling the NCMH 24-hour hotline was a trip and a half. Still, all my fears about reaching out weren’t justified. The call proved I didn’t have anything to worry about. No one judged me for not seeking out help sooner or the fact that I’m too broke to afford a therapist or my inability to recall past attempts without stuttering or breaking into uncomfortable laughter.
Looking after ourselves might seem like an afterthought during the pandemic. But, we shouldn’t use this time to invalidate or neglect our mental health
The call helped a lot, but it didn’t end there. The next step they wanted me to take was to sign up for their Telemental Health booking form.
“Sa panahon ngayon ay dumaranas tayo ng matinding krisis. Kaya naman higit na kailangan natin ang isa’t-isa. Nais naming ipaalam na nandirito kami kasama ninyo at handang makinig,” read NCMH’s Telemental Health form. NCMH’s Telemental Health initiative offers free consultation for COVID-19 patients, frontliners and anyone who needs mental health services during this trying time. Upon signing up, you would be assigned to a mental professional to cater to your specific need.
I won’t go into detail on how my session went. Although, I can say it gave me a sense of clarity. It gave me perspective on what I’m experiencing and what my next steps are when it comes to my untreated depression. Sure, I owe a lot of my mental stability to my support system. But my Telemental Health doctor brought me the viewpoint I needed to keep moving.
Looking after ourselves might seem like an afterthought during the pandemic. But, we shouldn’t use this time to invalidate or neglect our mental health. The brain is an organ and it deserves the same medical attention. We’re not being selfish, we’re just taking care of ourselves.
So the next time your mental health is in jeopardy, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and dial away. You’d be surprised at what a professional helping hand can do.
MCR saves lives (and they saved mine, too)
It’s okay not to be okay: Our insights from a deeply personal discussion about mental health
So, should you take a break after your college graduation?