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#AskTheExpert with Doc Joan Rifareal | Ep. 5: Coping with Mental Health Struggles

#AskTheExpert with Doc Joan Rifareal | Ep. 5: Coping with Mental Health Struggles

Watch episode 5 in our special #AskTheExpert series for International Women’s Day 2022, tackling mental health issues that continue to plague women today. Our expert is none other than psychiatrist Dr. Joan Mae Perez-Rifareal.

[What follows is the complete episode transcript]

Kai Magsanoc: Hello po sa inyong lahat. Welcome po sa fifth and last episode sa ating special #AskTheExpert series with Doc Joan Rifareal. So, if you’ve been watching these past 5 weeks ng March, so 5 episodes din po tayo. We have been tackling about self-care, mental health, and emotional health, and why is it important for us to do that, and the importance of this aspect of our health into our physical health. Syempre, ang mission, vission namin sa Hello Health Doctor and Hello Health Group is to help people make informed decisions about their health. And I feel so blessed that we have Doc Joan Rifareal here who has been supporting us not just with this series, but with our other Facebook lives as well. Thank you so much, Doc Joan.

Doc Joan Rifareal: Thank you, Kai. Ako nga ang magpapasalamat, really really. I’m so thankful. Thank you, Kai. I’m grateful for this opportunity to help raise awareness on mental health, especially during this International Women’s Month.

Kai Magsanoc: Right. So, today we are going to talk about coping with mental health struggles. Alam mo Doc Joan, when I was being interviewed for this position in Hello Doctor as EIC, medyo nashock iyong Chief Growth Officer namin, si Chris Clarke, kasi on our first interview, I immediately disclosed to him, I have clinical OCD, which when you’re a perfectionist, it triggers depression and anxiety, because you want things to be perfect. And of course, life is not perfect. And, he was so shocked because that was something an applicant wouldn’t normally disclose about themself because that might mean they may get removed from the applicant list. I was super honest. I think they saw value in that because I am a mental health advocate long before mental health was a huge topic. So, to start with our episode Doc Joan, when we say “mental health,” what are we pertaining to?

Doc Joan Rifareal: Yeah. So, when we say mental health, let’s go back to the official definition given by the World Health Organization about mental health. So, when we say mental health, it’s a state of well-being in which one, Number 1 — we are able to realize, alam natin what our abilities are, our talents, our skills, we know kung ano ang mga kaya natin gawin sa mga kababaihan sa International Women’s Month. Number 2 — we are able to cope with the normal stressors of life. Kahit na marami pang stressors kasi stress will always be a part of our lives, we encounter stressors anytime, anywhere, any day, nandoon pa rin ang ating ability to handle or cope to our stressors well. Number 3 — we are able to work productively and fruitfully. So, sa ating roles as moms, as titas, or colleagues, or friends, kaya natin to function, to do our tasks, our roles, and perform well. And at the end of the day, Number 4 — we are able to make a contribution to our community in any way we can. So, iyon po ang ‘yung 4 elements ng mental health, according to the World Health Organization.

Kai Magsanoc: So, Doc Joan, dito sa atin sa Pilipinas lalo na sa mga babae ano, a lot of women are still struggling to say that they are struggling with their mental health. Why do you think that is the case.

Doc Joan Rifareal: Yeah. Ngayon kasi Kai, even if talagang mayroon na tayong ano, there’s more awareness now on mental health, mental health concerns, there is still that stigma. ‘Yun lang ang stigma kasi, there is that fear about expressing, or telling someone, or seeking help for our mental health concerns, because of that fear na baka we will be judged negatively, or they will say negative opinions about us. Or, may fear na this may affect our status sa employment, sa school. So, ito iyong mga barriers to some women to ask for help regarding mental health concerns. So slowly Kai, sa akin ah, I’m happy to, sa aking observations, we are slowly getting there naman. Slowly slowly, again, it’s a process, not an overnight thing, na talagang awareness is there. And parang mayroon na ngayon na increased interest to seek help for mga mental health concerns, not really kaagad with mental health professionals, but kahit na in the homes, with friends, asking advice from school guidance counselors, school professors, advisers, mentors. So, slowly, we are, in fact, fighting this stigma.

‘Yun lang ang stigma kasi, there is that fear about expressing, or telling someone, or seeking help for our mental health concerns, because of that fear na baka we will be judged negatively, or they will say negative opinions about us. Or, may fear na this may affect our status sa employment, sa school. So, ito iyong mga barriers to some women to ask for help regarding mental health concerns.

Dr. Joan Rifareal

Kai Magsanoc: Okay, sige Doc. I’ll jump right into the next question that is super relevant kasi what we hear diba “drama queen,” “nagiinarte lang ‘yan,” “ito na naman si best actress,” para bang nasa kultura natin iyong maglabel ba, lalo na kung babae struggling with these words, or struggling with their mental health. Sa office kapag emotional ka, sasabihin “dramatic mo,” “masyado kang emotional” as if that’s a bad thing. ‘Pag ginagawa natin to Doc Joan at naririnig ‘to ng babaeng nagsstruggle with her mental health, ano iyong effect niya? Kunwari ako ‘yung, naririnig ko iyong tinatawag mo ko ng ganyan, what happens to the patient?

Doc Joan Rifareal: Of course, when we hear these, for example, tayo narinig natin ‘to na ‘ay wala ‘yan,’ ‘arte mo lang ‘yan,’ ‘tamad ka lang, ayaw mo pumasok,’ tayo we know, we feel it, we feel the symptoms of, halimbawa, anxiety, depression, then, of course, we will feel invalidated. Maiinvalidate iyong nafifeel nating mga sintomas. It may come to the point na baka tayo rin, we may also begin to question na ‘oo nga, baka tamad lang ako,’ or, ‘may katotohanan kaya iyong sinabi niya?’ So, there is that feeling of invalidated, being cancelled, mas maganda always, ako, I always remind everyone, especially when I give talks Kai to avoid judgmental statements like these to cause or make a person feel that his or her own thoughts and feelings are not valid. Or, pwede kasi na iyong perception ng nakakarinig noon na weak sila. So, nagkakaroon ng mga negative perception from what they hear from mga colleague nila who would mention things like this. Pwedeng they would feel na, ‘hala baka weak nga ako kasi iyon ‘yung sinabi ng aking friend,’ so they may question their capacity to, of course, cope, ang capcity nila to bounce back from their mental health concerns. So, they may feel na ay ‘weak talaga ako,’ or ‘failure talaga ako’ because of that feeling of being invalidated.

Kai Magsanoc: Okay. Mayroon bang danger na, has it ever happened na Doc where, because of labels like this, someone actually harmed themself. It drove them to take their own life or harm themself.

Doc Joan Rifareal: Yeah. Mayroon Kai kasi we know when someone feels invalidated, they also begin to question kung ano ba talaga ano, kung baka nga. Sometimes, when they question, if no one corrects them, no one gives them a better perspective, or guide them through their thought process nila, they may feel na ay talagang ‘failure nga ako,’ or talaga pa lang ‘I can’t do this,’ ‘I can’t accomplish anything,’ so they may feel na parang it’s always their mistake.

They feel guilty about it. We know that for someone who’s going through depression, they feel all these feelings of guilt, hopelessness, that life is meaningless, their failure. So, ang daming mga negative thoughts which go through their heads, so mas nafifeel nila ito, mas nahihighlight itong mga negative thoughts and emotions when they do not get that validation from their loved ones or from their families and friends.

We know that for someone who’s going through depression, they feel all these feelings of guilt, hopelessness, that life is meaningless, their failure. So, ang daming mga negative thoughts which go through their heads, so mas nafifeel nila ito, mas nahihighlight itong mga negative thoughts and emotions when they do not get that validation from their loved ones or from their families and friends.

Dr. Joan Rifareal

Kai Magsanoc: My favorite thing about this final episode in the series, noong sa first four episodes natin Doc Joan, we were talking to the patient, we were addressing to the patient. In this case, we are going to close it diba sabi nila it takes a village to raise a child, you know what, it takes a village to take care one another. We are accountable to one another, diba Doc Joan. Accountable to and accountable for, alright. So, to close this series and to close this episode, and to address the people around the women who are struggling. Let’s talk to the immediate loved ones, to the husbands, to the parents, to the siblings ano, what do we do or how do we help someone who is struggling mentally? Please enumerate your tips, then, yeah Doc, go ahead.

Doc Joan Rifareal: Yes, to the family members, to the loved ones of someone, if you know someone in the family, or a friend, or a colleague who may be going through some mental health concerns, please reach out. Now is the best time. Kung mayroong mga sintomas, mayroong mga signs na, may pagbabago sa kilos, sa performance sa trabaho, parang mas naging isolated lately, parang may mga changes sa behaviors, please reach out. Let the person know na he or she is never alone. Sometimes kasi iyon ‘yung kailangang nilang mafeel or mairnig, iyong they are never alone, and that you will always be there to give them that help and support that they need as they go through challenging or tough times. Let them know that the help and support will always be there. Number 2 — bawal ang judgmental, so please avoid, let’s avoid comments which are medyo judgmental and which may not be very helpful lalo na iyong mga pinagusapan natin kanina. Mas maganda if we phrase our statements in a more positive and healthy way. ‘I will stay with you until help arrives.’ ‘I’m here if you need to talk to someone,’ ‘I’m here always. You can call me anytime.’ So, reassurance is very important. Number 3 — if you can po, mas maganda po magtulungan lagi. Now is the time na we call it Kai na, teamwork is very important. Actually, kasi nga we are celebrating International Women’s Month, teamwork makes the dream work. Sometimes, may napapansin tayong someone who is going through or struggling with mental health concerns, inano muna natin siya, wala, we do not reach out, they would go on or proceed with their activities, plans, and they leave this person on his or her own. So, mas maganda po, teamwork always, kung kailangan tulungan iyong person who is struggling with mental health concerns, then, siguro, let’s take over iyong mga tasks niya na hindi niya kaya gawin, and know that this is temporary.

Any form of mental health concern. Number 1 — temporary. Number 2 — help is always available. Number 3 — they are highly curable. Number 4 — mataas ang recovery rates. So, it’s never a hopeless situation and help is always available. So, ‘wag po tayong mawalan ng pag-asa, magtulungan. Teamwork makes the dream work.

Any form of mental health concern. Number 1 — temporary. Number 2 — help is always available. Number 3 — they are highly curable. Number 4 — mataas ang recovery rates. So, it’s never a hopeless situation and help is always available. So, ‘wag po tayong mawalan ng pag-asa, magtulungan.

Dr. Joan Rifareal

Kai Magsanoc: Correct. So, thank you for that, Doc Joan. What a perfect way to end our month-long celebration of International Women’s Month and International Women’s Day. So, thank you again, Doc Joan. To all of us who tuned-in in all five episodes, marami pong salamat. Para po sa mga nakamiss ng mga naunang episodes — episode 1 is recovering from trauma or PTSD, episode 2 tackles the effects of sexual harassment, episode 3 is self-care for moms shouldn’t be optional, and then episode 4 is what a healthy woman looks like. Pinagusapan natin iyong mental and emotional health ng mga kababaihan, and ito pong episode 5 ay iyong coping with mental health struggles. So, if you are going through any difficulty and don’t know who to speak with, message us Hello Doctor on Facebook, and we will try to send help your way. Tulad nga ng sabi ni Doc Joan, it is never a sign of weakness if you ask for help, like that is always in my head, even for me, ‘no. There is power in vulnerability, sabi nga ni Brene Brown. But, when you’re depressed, you don’t see it, which is why tayong mga nakapaligid sa pasyente, nasa sa atin po iyong responsibilidad para tulungan siya. Aminin natin diba, ang nanay natin babae, and I’m sure tumingin po kayo sa paligid niyo, marami pong babae ang nagaalaga sa inyo, mga katrabaho ninyo, mga matalik ninyong kaibigan. So, kung minsan kailangan nila ng tulong, ‘wag po natin iyon ipagkait. So, thank you again, Doc Joan. Until our next FB Live po with Doc Joan. Hindi po natin alam kailan iyan pero sana very soon dahil mamimiss natin siya agad.

Doc Joan Rifareal: Thank you.

Kai Magsanoc: Thank you, Doc. This has been Kai Magsanoc, country lead of Hello Doctor Philippines. Marami pong salamat and be well.

Learn more about nurturing your mental health here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Written by Fiel Tugade Updated Apr 04
Medically reviewed by Dexter Macalintal, MD