Safe spaces for mental health, especially for women

Published March 13, 2021, 2:20 PM

by Jessica Pag-iwayan

There’s a great need for companies and private institutions to empower their female employees by providing programs that will help them cope in these very trying times

SHE CARES Female team members of Telus PH at a volunteering activity

One year in the world’s longest lockdown, our country and us Filipinos are still struggling with the threat of COVID-19. Health and economic uncertainty, the pressure of living in a new normal where there’s a very thin line between personal and professional life, are affecting not just our physical, but also our emotional and psychological health.

Each of us might be coping in a different way, but studies have shown that with all that is happening now, this greatly affects the psychological health of the women population. According to Time’s report, “women are almost three times as likely as men to report suffering from significant mental health consequences (27 percent compared to 10 percent), including anxiety, loss of appetite, inability to sleep, and trouble completing everyday tasks.”

With that being said, there’s a great need for companies and private institutions to empower their female employees by providing programs that will help them cope in these very trying times. During the recently held TELUS International Philippines Women’s Month event “Squeeze the Day!” mental health advocate Dr. Gia Sison emphasized the importance of building support group for women.

Support group vs. group therapy

According to Doc. Sison, a support group will give women an avenue to own their concerns, to heal, and to express themselves.

“Based on the Global Burden of Disease study that was last 2015, more females suffer from depressive disorders compared to men,” she says. “The whole basis or the foundation of mental health care is really all about selfcare. So that’s one practice we should adopt most especially nowadays. Then, support groups are important. So when we define support group, it’s a group of people who come together to talk about the challenge and experience without being judged, blamed, stigmatized or isolated.”

She also explains that support group is different from group therapy. “Support groups are less intense. Meanwhile, clinically support groups sometimes get heavy because all of them are coming from the same diagnosis,” she says. “Support groups foster encouraging interactions among group members, and there are no expectations to fix themselves.”


The impact of having a support group

As a cancer survivor herself, Doc. Sison attests to the positive impact of being part of this type of group, especially, if a woman is going through a difficult phase. “Emotional support is big, when I was diagnosed with cancer eight years ago, I underwent chemotherapy. One thing that helped me push through was support groups of women diagnosed with cancer,” she intimates.

Based on a Global Burden of Disease study, more females suffer from depressive disorders compared to men.

In building support groups, she gives some pointers for companies and private organizations. “Number one, you may want to start with volunteers,” she says. “Make sure they are equipped with skills like communication skills because there’s a proper way to carry out a conversation in the support group. Then, back it up with the policy, so there’s a main anchor for everything you do, which is highly encouraged by the mental health law. And that’s included in the mental health law in the workplace.”

Where to find help?

If support group is not available and someone is in need of help in addressing her psychological needs, Doc. Sison sends the list of groups and clinics that offer affordable, if not free, mental health services.

For the complete list, visit Some of these institutions do online consultation, while others are already accepting face to face services. “When we talk about mental health nowadays, it’s really a state of well-being, where we all realize our own potential,” she says. “We are able to cope with the stress that we all have in life, but in spite of that, we are able to work productively and make or do our part in serving our communities.”