It was only in December of last year when Bishop Soc Mesiona asked me to start reaching out to people suffering from depression as an advocacy of the Church. Since then, I was overwhelmed by how I was swamped with texts, messages and numerous visits for counseling. It was a sort of Pandora Box experience, in a very positive way though. True enough, people would just be suffering on their own and in their deafening silence. They could just be waiting for someone who would care to listen to them or just to be with them. On second thoughts, instead of them just waiting, let us rather aggressively reach out to them. To wait is to forfeit.

The first time I made mention about the advocacy in my homily, one senior high schooler remarked, “Ako ata ang pinatatamaan ni Father Eugene a.” She came to me days later and told me that she had thought of herself as having depression and suicidal tendencies. You would not profile her to be suffering. She has honors in school and seemingly well-provided in the family. A young very smart achiever is into battle. Her weapon is honesty and acceptance. She wanted to talk it out.

A mother of four told me that she is thankful that we are starting the advocacy for mental health. She is interested to become a volunteer. I asked her why. She intimated that she was into it for quite some time. There were days when she felt lousy and unmotivated. She could not find something positive about what is happening in her life. “How did you survive since you seem to look all right now?,” I queried. “Going out… I pulled myself outside. Whenever I enclosed myself I would always begin to talk to myself negatively,” she claimed quite proudly. “Walang mangyayari sa buhay ko kung sasarilinin ko lang problema ko… kawawa naman mga anak ‘pag nawala ako,” she added. Battle number two- a mother. She would arm herself by going out into the light rather than to cave in the darkness (literally and figuratively).

Lately, together with several professional counselors and medical professionals, we launched Depression Help Online (DHO) on Facebook. The rationale of which is to provide an “emergency kit”. Statistics show that numerous lives were saved by basic first aid. This simple gesture of (health) care can mean the difference between life and death. If online help is able to make one soul smile at any given time, it could already be considered as a modest achievement in the kind of a battle that we are talking about. Truth be told, the performance of DHO has gone leaps and bounds. One posts went about to a million netizens in reach and some thousands of shares. The topic? About failure. Making sense out of it than just be sorry. Perhaps, the biggest battle ever – against failure.

I remember in one of my classes in graduate school, a public school teacher was not able to attend class. Her excuse? Being bashed by her students. We usually think that bullying is only among students but that is only the other side of the coin. In truth and in fact, the most bullied in school could be the one who bravely stands in front of his/her class despite sleepless nights of preparation of lesson plans and computing of grades. No thanks to kunsintidor parents of students. Some of them would really think that they know more and can do better than teachers. Being toxic in a workplace – another real-life battle.

Recently, I was invited to be part of a group (Philippine Mental Health Association) that would advocate mental health in a large scale and in a systematic way. I did not think twice of joining to establish a Palawan Chapter. Browsing through the programs, their approaches, and the like, my gut feeling was telling me that we are going to have a good fighting chance against depression. Everyone is a stakeholder just as anyone could also fall victim to this dreadful illness (God forbid). When we get to be open-minded and take our respective parts to combat this recurrent malady it could already be half the battle.

Somebody made a remark, “Buti na lang po kayong mga pari po ay parang immunized sa ganyan.” I shrugged, yet I know very well that no one is really exempt from this kind of battle. For some, it may already be advanced; for others, the battle may have just begun; we wish that for many, it could still be prevented. All told, let us rather gear ourselves up for this generation’s silent yet very grueling battle.

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