By Ria Fernandez
MANILA – About 10 years ago, Kates Ante would not dare to face other people nor the camera.
“Talagang super severe ng situation ko noon. To the point na 23 hours a day nakahiga lang ako. One hour na yung total time na iihi ako, kakain, kasi minsan pati pag-inom ng tubig nakahiga ako.”
(My condition before was really super severe. I was just lying in bed for 23 hours. One hour was the total time for me to urinate, eat, or drink, which I did on the bed.)
Kates was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. It is a common mental illness that has affected over 300,000 people world-wide. In the Philippines, more than 3.3 million Filipinos have depression while 3.1 million suffer from anxiety.
People with this kind of disease are usually sad, irritable, and easily get tired. In severe cases, they develop insomnia or excessive sleeping. They also lose motivation, become pessimistic or, worse, entertain suicidal thoughts.
Based on the record of Hopeline, a 24/7 suicide prevention hotline, problems in the family is the top concern of callers whose ages range from 10 to 82 years old.
This is followed by romance. Gender issues on the fourth spot; and financial woes on the sixth.
For Jean Goulbourn, president of Natasha Goulbourn Foundation and pioneer of Hopeline, self-awareness is the key in escaping the darkness of depression.
“Know yourself. Know your weakness. Know your pain. Know your sorrow. Know your joys. Knowing that you know what is sad because of being hurt by someone, there is a way of getting over it,” said Goulbourn, who lost her daughter Natasha to depression.
In the case of Kates, she didn’t know how to start again. But with the support of her father, little by little, she began to understand what she was going through.
“Self-awareness works wonders for everyone. If you have self-awareness…mas alam mo na ano trigger sa tao. (you’ll know more what triggers depression.)”
In 2013, Kates slowly started interacting with other people by joining the Anxiety and Depression Support Philippines (ADSP)—it is a community on Facebook where members can freely share their mental battle without fear of being judged.
Once in a while, she would go out on a trip or retreat with her ADSP family. Sometimes, she accompanies a fellow member to the hospital.
“Malaking ginhawa pag nakakausap nila ang mga katulad nila kasi alam nila na parehas kami ng pinagdadaanan.”
(It is a huge relief when members are able to talk to people like us who are going through the same ordeal).
The group was also heaven-sent for Issa Villapando, who also faced depression.
“There’s just something about being in a group that empowers you to help. It encourages you to become stronger for them,” Villapando shared.
Ante is now the administrator of ADSP. Under her helm, members have risen to 6,000. From being a simple avenue for conversations, the group leveled up to promoting mental health awareness.