PLDT, Smart empower Tarlac youth through mental health virtual talk series

When it comes to mental health, it is important to know that it starts from within. In taking care of oneself, one gets to take care of others as well. Mental health can be seen as a multi-sectoral approach where one must be surrounded with a good support system and their own safe space. In PLDT and Smart’s recent mental health talk series, it empowered the youth of Tarlac to be co-champions in advocating for mental health and wellness. Called ‘Better Today with Tarlac’, the talk series, which premiered last August 6, has since garnered over 15,000 views.

Tarlac Provincial Governor Susan Yap underscored the multi-sectoral and whole-of-society approach and response for mental health with programs and interventions among different communities. “Mental health issue is everyone’s issue, no one is exempted. Regardless of race, creed, color, nationality, or status in life, one may encounter difficulties involving mental health,” Yap said.

According to Yap, even though the public perception on mental health conditions has significantly improved, there is still a long way to go when it comes to destigmatizing mental illnesses and disorders. “There are still stigmas against mental illness due to stereotypes and lack of information and education on the matter. More platforms are needed to voice out that mental health is real and not an imaginary fiction,” Yap said.

“We are glad, that through this webinar, another platform, which I hope will not be the last, will be able to reach out to a wider audience to encourage them to speak because there will always be those of us who are ready and will listen to them,” Yap added.

Riyan Portuguez, more popularly known as Your Millennial Psychologist, shared her insights during the session, specifically on ways to address and recognize mental health issues, such as loneliness, anxiety and depression. Portuguez also provided practical tips on how to help friends and family members who may be experiencing these issues.

“It is important to understand that our emotions and feelings are a natural response on what’s happening outside of ourselves. We must learn how to embrace these feelings and emotions. Denying what is natural is not okay. You are a human being who is capable of feeling a wide range of emotions,” Portuguez said.

According to Portuguez, the things we feel are all valid – from loneliness, anxiety and languishing among others. Portuguez describes languishing as a feeling of joylessness and aimlessness. “It’s okay to allow yourself to experience this feeling of languishing but it is important to do something about it. It’s okay to not be okay but to stay that way is not okay,” Portuguez said.

John Paul “JP” Silvestre, who is a Psychology Professor from Tarlac State University, also shared how the feeling of languishing also results to collective grief. “Grief is more than just the people we have lost, but it could also be related to the things that we have lost along the way. It’s also the feeling of losing inspiration and motivation,” Silvestre said.

Silvestre and Portuguez shared that the feeling of numbness and languishing is a common feeling. It’s the uncertainty and the in-between of feeling okay and not okay. According to Portuguez, in order to fight the feeling of languishing to flourish, one must practice self-compassion, self-love and self-care.

Youth leaders Provincial Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) Federation President Christine Dizon and Tarlac City SK Federation President Genise Anne P. Delos Reyes also shared their insights on mental health awareness. Both leaders mentioned the importance of taking care of oneself by understanding one’s feelings and emotions. By validating one’s feelings, a person is able to find ways to heal and cope. It is important to let someone know that they are not alone when it comes to facing these mental health issues. Asking someone how they are today – a simple ‘kumusta’ – will go a long way.

The youth of Tarlac echoed the critical role of mental health in one’s holistic growth and development. Through the conversations on mental health awareness, the youth shared inspirational messages of empathy and hope. These included the messages of not being alone, of having a social support system and a safe space; of self-love and self-care by prioritizing one’s mental health.

PLDT and Smart’s trade partners in Tarlac province, Netwire Specialists, Inc., CKC, Inc. and Infinireach, Inc., contributed to the success of the event.  “We purposely designed the event to be multi-sectoral where each stakeholder contributed to the event structure, execution and eventually the outcome,” revealed Smart AVP and Head for Government Relations Jose Lukban Rosete.

Better Today is PLDT and Smart’s collaborative platform for changemaking in the digital space. The program emphasizes the companies’ commitment to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), particularly UN SDG #3: Good Health and Well-Being.

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