Mental health put on focus in 4th youth talks forum

Aiming to capacitate the youth of Zamboanga City on “first aid intervention” regarding mental health issues, the last SUGPAT Youth Talks of the year was organized last November 30.

Considered the most engaging Youth Talks yet, more than 50 youth from all over the city gathered for “SUGPAT Youth Talks 4: Prioritizing Your Mental Health in the 21st Century” at the Fr. Faustino Saavedra Building, Ateneo de Zamboanga University.

In the morning, different issues and concerns of adolescent mental health, risk and protective factors, and how to care for self and others were discussed through a Forum Theater facilitated by Prof. Nephtaly Joel Botor, UPLB Professor, and Ms. Abigail del Puerto, Program Director of Balik Kalipay Center for Psychosocial Response Inc.

During the Forum Theater, participants witnessed a roleplay of a character who was undergoing typical stresses (bullying, depression, etc.) that was deemed harming for an individual across three different settings: in school, at home, and with the self.

As the forum theater progressed, the spectators became “spect-ACTORS” and replaced key characters that interacted with the main character in dilemma to show “better ways” of handling friends facing mental health issues.

Professor Botor said one of the challenges in the discourse of mental health is really engaging the youth in awareness activities and initiatives through creative and innovative approaches.

“The SUGPAT Youth Talks is a really great activity that enables the youth to engage in conversations on mental health without them feeling bored. In other words, the sessions are not too heavy, but what they learn from the discussions are deep,” he added further.

The national chairperson of the Youth for Mental Health Coalition, Inc., Dr. Raymond John Naguit gave the keynote message in the afternoon where he defined mental health, talked about a suicide prevention hotline he helped developed, and shared about the mental health bill that was passed into a law with the help of his organization.

Dr. Naguit said that “no one is exempted” from developing mental health conditions as proven in data which showed that mental health problems are higher in the youth sector.

“Most of the mental health conditions actually start out when these people are just children, so if we can address the common issues like bullying, handling stress, academic problems, family relationships, and if we can prepare them better while they are young, I think they will be more resilient adults in the future and I think that is the more sustainable way of dealing with mental health problems,” he said.

Youth participant Fhey Manalo said it is important for the youth to attend fora like the Youth talks to be aware of big issues that affect society.

“If you lack knowledge on the issue of mental health, you tend to neglect your well-being and become unaware that there are other solutions to overcome a certain problem of mental health,” she said.

This is SUGPAT’s last forum of the year. The SUGPAT Youth Talks is a programming under the project that will engage with youth on different issues affecting them. The last three topics held were about towards the crafting of the local youth development of Zamboanga City, creating safe spaces for the youth, and youth vulnerabilities to violent extremism.

“Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is courage,” Professor Botor concluded.

If you or anyone you know is going through a mental health crisis, please contact (02) 804-HOPE (4673); 0917 558 HOPE (4673); or 2919 (toll-free number for all GLOBE and TM subscribers) or message us at SUGPAT directly. The lines will always be open for you.

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