Trigger warning: This article mentions mental illness, depression, and suicide, which could be triggering to some readers.
Each week, PhilSTAR L!fe addresses a reader's concern about relationships, career, and anything they want to talk about through its advice column: Asking for a Friend.
Dear L!fe friend,
Last week, I got diagnosed with major depressive disorder in PGH. My family didn't know about this and I don't want them to know because they'll only invalidate it. Now, I'm struggling to find ways kung paano ako makakabili ng gamot na nireseta sa akin pati na rin yung para sa laboratory. I'm still a student and nahihirapan din akong maghanap ng work na pwede sa student at swak sa schedule ko. What do I do?
—Struggling Student with Depression
Dear Struggling Student with Depression,
I live in a barrio where I help bring some 18 men and women from age 19 to 28 to a psychiatrist. I am blessed to have a friend who is a shrink. I wish I could bring you to her also so you wouldn’t carry the burden of paying your subida (doctor’s fee.) But I have already reached my quota.
I don’t have statistics to show why the young ones of today are prone to depression but in my barangay alone, many are still apprehensive about admitting to the public that they need professional help.
That advocacy started pre-pandemic when I saw a young man close to me post a rope dangling from the ceiling. I learned from my previous extensive interviews with the late Dr. Lourdes Lapuz, the famous psychiatrist of people from gated communities, that anything that has something to do with suicide—whether or not it’s a joke—should be taken seriously.
I called the young man right away. He was about to take his life. After being diagnosed with MDD, as his psychiatrist calls major depressive disorder, he started taking Jovia to stabilize his moods, and Rivotril to aid in his sleeping. He did not sleep for two weeks. He had delusions. To help him earn his money for medication, he became a busboy in a restaurant in the neighboring town. He’s coping well now.
Like how you felt about your parents, his feelings were invalidated by his family, more specially by his dad, who, to this day, still believes that mental health issues are “gawa-gawa lamang para mag-inarte.”
But it won’t hurt if you open up to your family. Open up to the one you are closest to. One by one. Maybe you have already judged them that they will invalidate you. What if they support you? Then half the battle is won.
Depression is real. It’s ugly. It’s debilitating. It’s unnerving—when not treated or addressed properly.
Depression is real. It’s ugly. It’s debilitating. It’s unnerving—when not treated or addressed properly. I saw it in the experiences of the people I still help bring to a shrink. The struggle is real. (I had to talk to a psychiatrist when depression set in after my bout with COVID. I lost my sense of smell even three months after I got healed. It affected me so much because a scentless world is not a complete world. My mental state was affected. I needed an anchor. Until I was led to an acupuncturist in Sonya’s Garden to treat my loss of my sense of smell. The world is back to its fragrant state again—just like my view in life.)
Money is your problem, too, you mentioned. Factor in the expenses for medication and the situation becomes more depressing. Take note, it’s only been a week since you got diagnosed with depression. How long will you take the meds? Fret not. There’s a solution. Somehow.
According to Dr. Angela Aida Warren Halili-Jao, a psychiatrist who also wrote an advice column for The STAR before, she refers her patients who find it hard to cough out money for meds to the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
“Those seeking for medical assistance can go to the website of PCSO and click E-Services, then click NCR Online Application. Royina Garma—PCSO general manager—said application is now online due to the suspension of operations of the agency's main and extension offices due to the pandemic,” says Dr. Jao.
I hope the following requirements for PCSO medical assistance can help you defray your expenses. Times are hard—we need to push ourselves to places where we can get help. Here goes:
- Duly accomplished PCSO IMAP application form
- Original or certified true copy of the clinical abstract duly signed by the attending physician with license number
- Valid ID of patient and representative
For inquiries, contact the PSCO hotline numbers 0917-8807150 and 0927-3139380 for Globe, 0919-0683699 and 0949-0310843 for Smart from Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Dr. Jao also suggests seeking help from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Requirements for medical assistance at DSWD are the following:
- Clinical abstract/medical certificate with signature and license number of the attending physician (issued within three months)
- Hospital bill (for payment of hospital bill) or prescription (for medicines) or laboratory requests (for procedures)
- Barangay certificate/Indigency certificate of the client
You mentioned that you are a student, it may help if you will reach out to your guidance counselor for an extra boost. Since face-to-face classes have yet to resume, you may want to get in touch with the school counselor through social media.
One of the students I know, though he is not depressed, sells cooked meals to his teachers who report to school. That helps him financially. He has money for his tuition fee. He started with a meager capital of P200 to start a banana cue business. He attended his online class as he poured red sugar into the plantain being fried. When he already had enough money to venture into viands, he went for the kill and sold ulam to his teachers. You may want to follow suit and start a small business of your own. You just need to be driven. You just need to reach out.
It’s important to reach out. Times like this, we need a community—whether we want to sell clothes online or packed food to the teachers. We need a community—whether we want to have an extra pair of ears to listen to the demons inside us or to the angels that need to be celebrated. We need a community.
If you deem it necessary to speak to someone in the middle of the night, Hopeline Philippines is a community of trained experts and this is the non-profit organization that Jeannie Goulbourn of the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation recommends. Its hotline numbers are 0917-5534673, 0918-8734673, and landline (02)8804-4673.
“We have psychologists and guidance counselors in Hopeline. They are well versed in responding to and assessing emotional crises. Then they turn the callers over to reliable doctors and psychiatrists if they are high risk,” says Jeannie.
“We believe in ‘One life, one line, one call’,” she adds.
I wish you well, dear Struggling Student with Depression. This, too, shall pass.
Got a problem you’re too afraid or embarrassed to share out loud? We’re here for you. E-mail us at [email protected] to get some lighthearted advice you need to hear.