In recent years, as the world continues to go on a downward spiral, thriving—especially when one is born without privilege—is a challenge. There’s the impending doom brought about by global heating, a chaotic political climate, and a generally bleak future awaiting the young generation. But the struggle isn’t only happening outside the bodies; the storm is also brewing inside us.
Mental health is a major issue these days. Depression is the fourth leading cause of death among young people in the world. By next year, the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that it might take the second spot. WHO estimates that there are 300 million people in the world who are suffering from depression.
In the US, the government is trying to help young people—students, in particular—get a peaceful state of mind. Last year, Utah included “mental health” as a valid excuse to miss a school day. Oregon followed suit earlier this month by giving students five mental health days every three months. This legislation acknowledges the need to give students a break from accumulating school-related stress, which may translate to a bigger problem when left to its own devices.
What exactly is a mental health day? And should we take one?
Mental health day, in a nutshell, is a break taken to prevent burnout from accumulated stress and anxiety and to address mental health issues. Think of it as a sick day for when we don’t feel well in non-physical aspects. To clarify, this day off is not taken just because we don’t want to work. According to Brandon M. Smith of Working Therapist, we are in need of a mental health break when we’re not sleeping well, our anxiety is off the charts, or we’ve become listless towards work or apathetic towards our loved ones.
In the Philippines, the Mental Health Law, which was signed by President Duterte last year, aims to integrate mental health programs in schools and workplaces. The law requires both schools and employers to provide access to mental health services, as well as policies that would promote a healthy state of mind among students and employees. However, the law doesn’t talk about providing mental health days specifically.
At a time when everyone’s accessible 24 hours a day, taking a mental health break could be a challenge. With just one click, we could unknowingly be disturbing someone or even our own mental health break. This is why we should discuss with teachers and managers, especially because our Mental Health Law doesn’t have specific rules on mental health days.
Mental health issues, like depression, may manifest in the most unexpected ways. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders notes excessive or lack of sleep, fatigue, inability to concentrate, and suicide ideation as some of the warning signs of depression. But the inability to feel emotions could also be a sign of depression. This just proves that mental health issues could be invisible or not apparent, but that doesn’t mean they’re not real.
“We all know how to maintain physical health. But what do we know about maintaining our psychological health? Nothing,” psychologist Guy Winch says in his TED Talk at Linnaeus University. “Why is physical health much more important to us than our psychological health? We sustain psychological injuries even more often than physical ones. And they can impact our lives in dramatic ways. And yet, even though there are scientifically proven techniques we could use to treat these kinds of psychological injuries, we don’t. It doesn’t even occur to us that we should.”
It’s about time that we normalize taking care of our mental health. We can’t just go on working or studying with stress and anxieties hovering over our heads. We can’t just keep shrugging our shoulders and say, “This too shall pass.” Mental health issues are putting us in serious danger.
At the same time, we can’t just take a mental health break and do nothing. How can we help ourselves improve if we’re not even willing to acknowledge our psychological and emotional injuries? We need to take our overall health seriously now.
Art by Marx Fidel
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