‘Caring for yourself is caring for others too’.
Ms. Marie Joyce Tupas, Assistant Psychology Professor at the Ateneo de Davao University in her talk during the MindaDOST Gender and Development Forum on Thursday, March 18, 2021.
In August 2020, a spike in calls alarmed the National Center for Mental Health with a monthly average of 53 suicide-related concerns. Furthermore, the latest figures from the Philippine Statistical Authority show a 25.7% increase in suicide incidents in 2020, directing authorities to address the mental health crisis amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
To foster human welfare, the Mindanao Department of Science and Technology or MindaDOST Gender and Development Forum 2021 approached the sensitive yet relevant issues in mental health. Although capacity building remains a challenge due to lockdowns, more students, professionals, and advocates joined the forum on Zoom and Facebook Live.
In her talk ‘Protecting our Mental Health during the Pandemic’, Ms. Marie Joyce Tupas, Assistant Psychology Professor at the Ateneo de Davao University, exposed facts about the impact of COVID-19 on Filipinos’ mental health.
Aside from the WHO’s findings that COVID-19 can affect the nervous system’s functions, Ms. Tupas highlighted that stress, social isolation, and violence in the family are likely to affect the brain health of children and adolescents. Moreover, social isolation, and reduced physical activity and intellectual stimulation can cause cognitive decline among older adults.
‘The DOH is doing research on the mental health context of the Philippines during the pandemic. As of March 2020, 3.6 million Filipinos suffer from one kind of mental, neurological, and substance use disorder,’ the psychologist expounded.
Distress tolerance skills to master
Ms. Tupas responded to questions online with tools and tips to maintain personal and collective mental health such as the ‘Distress Tolerance Skills’. This includes three exercises namely ‘The safe-place visualization’, ‘Self-encouraging coping thoughts’, and ‘Time-out’.
She wrapped up her talk with five points to ponder –  know the facts about COVID-19,  remind yourself that everyone is in an unusual situation,  take breaks from the news and social media,  connect with others, and  seek professional help when necessary. See full presentation here: [https://www.facebook.com/DOST.Caraga/videos/481439823225073]
The open-forum gave her a chance to leave some advice about when to say that a person needs more than self-care. The ‘Four Ds’ or deviance, dysfunction, distress, and danger, can be a valuable tool to assess traits, symptoms, or conditions in someone who needs professional help.
Juan and Juana’s reproductive health amidst global crisis
‘Reproductive health is not a responsibility of women alone,’ said Ms. Sumagpao citing reproductive health efforts of agencies and organizations in the country.
Even as COVID-19 pandemic strains health and social services, MindaDOST GAD Forum 2021 enabled the public to clarify issues and empower them on reproductive health services of the government. MindaDOST is the organization of all DOST Regional Offices in Mindanao.
In her talk ‘Looking After Men and Women’s Reproductive Health’, Ms. Fe Sumagpao, Nurse V of DOH-CHD Region 10, emphasized the ‘Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012’ or the Republic Act 10354 that seeks to provide improved public access to natural and artificial family planning options, better maternal care, and youth education.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV became a prime issue in her presentation. Ms. Fe clarified that pregnant women who are HIV-positive can work with health care professionals to ensure their babies do not contract HIV during pregnancy, delivery, or after delivery (through breast milk). It is possible for a mother to have HIV and not spread it to her baby, especially if she knows about her HIV status early and works with her health care provider to reduce the risk.
Alongside efforts to continue reproductive health services amid the pandemic, she encouraged the public to contact health centers online for free reproductive health improvement services.
Babae sa Kauswagan: Celebrating Success in Mindanao
Empowering women is essential to the health and social development of families, communities, and countries. When women feel safe, they can reach their full potential, Dr. Diana L. Ignacio, DOST Assistant Secretary for Human Resources Management, Management Services, and Special Concerns cited empowering women being part of the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 anchored on Ambisyon Natin 2040, to build a foundation for Inclusive growth, resilient societies, and a globally competitive economy.
Caraga region has been led by progressive women in different sectors. DOST-Caraga together with Regional Offices IX, X, XI, and XII celebrates successful and inspiring women in business, community development, and other fields. As a tribute to these notable women of Mindanao, the MindaDOST GAD team produced a video of their stories to inspire young men and women to pursue their dreams. See full video here : [https://www.facebook.com/DOST.Caraga/videos/463155588218286]
Mr. Ricardo N. Varela, OIC, DOST Caraga Office of the Regional Director ended the forum with thanks to all regional offices in Mindanao, GAD Coordinators, S&T Promotions, IT Team, and the online participants who made the event successful.