A local mental health group is reminding the public to refrain from self-diagnosis when it comes to mental health and warned of its dangers.
Lorizza Mae Posadas-Gacott, registered guidance counselor and an officer of Philippine Mental Health Association Inc. (PMHAI) Palawan Chapter, said that self-diagnosis without guidance of a psychologist or counselor may lead to misinterpretation of data or result.
“May tinatawag kasi tayo na psychological testing, part ‘yan ng psychological assessment. Maraming purpose ang mga test na tini-take natin. Dito sa Philippines, ang pagti-take ng psychological test actually ay regulated din siya ng law, hindi lahat ay pwede magpa-take,” she said.
“Ang danger din na kapag tayo ay nag-take lang na hindi sinasabi sa atin, for example walang psychologist or counselor na nagsabi sa atin ay pwedeng ma-misinterpret natin ‘yong data or ang results na tini-take natin,” she added.
The warning came in light of the recent online psychological assessment that has gone viral in the last few weeks.
Gacott said there are several factors to be considered in taking psychological tests and it must be scientific and research-based. She added that there are also issues affecting the validity and reliability of instrument used.
She said that it is better to consult mental health practitioners who are capable to provide needed intervention if an individual is interested to assess the condition of his or her mental health condition.
Providing psychological tests in the country are regulated by the law and must only be provided by psychologists, psychometrician under RA 10029 and registered counselors under RA 9258.
“For example, once na nag-take ka from the internet at hindi na-establish ang reliability and validity ng test na ‘yon, maaaring makaapekto ‘yon sa ilalabas na result at sa pag-interpret mo. Another thing, mahalaga na ‘yong test ay background appropriate sa person, nakadepende yong uri ng test sa purpose, sa population, group o culture ng person na nagti-take,” she added.
Gacott said that there are certain groups like PMHA that can provide a psychological test for free for those who are need to get assessment. Registered counselors in academe and government-based practitioners can also provide the test for lest cost or for free.
The national office of PMHA has also released statement with the use and interpretation of online psychological tests as it recently gained popularity after many individuals were observed getting interested in assessing their mental health.
PMHA stated that self-diagnosis can misinterpret normal stress reaction as disorder or misdiagnosis of actual condition. The online test does not ensure that the individual will receive adequate support or treatment, it added.
Father Eugene Elivera, chair of PMHA-Palawan warned that instead that this test could help, the self-diagnosis in online test might lead to more alarming situation, might trigger panic and a possibility to cause misinterpretation.
“Lalo na dito sa Palawan, without appropriate guide, baka hindi makatulong iyon, iba pa rin yong may mental health professional,” he said.
Mental health condition during pandemic
Elivera said that PMHA-Palawan has no exact figure yet on how many individuals might experience depression during the span of pandemic within the province but based on observation, he said that there are some who have experienced it.
“In terms of figure in depression and suicide ay wala tayong exact kasi una, there’s a stigma. Hindi mo sasabihin na meron ka depression. Hindi mo iri-report na meron kang mental health illness, pero in terms of experience and observation ay may iilan, iyon ang nakalulungkot,” he said.
“Patuloy ‘yong panawagan natin sa mga kinauukulan na matagal na natin sinasabi, nila-lobby na tutukan na ang issue ng mental health,” he added.
Gacott on the other hand said that there are really many individuals who are experiencing stress at time of pandemic crisis. She explained that if the stress was not alleviated, it elevates to anxiety and sometimes ends up with depression or other complicated conditions.
“Wala talagang hard rule pagdating sa pag-handle ng stress, naka-depende yon sa perspective ng taong nakararanas ng stress. Isa sa pinakamahalaga na kailangan natin gawin is self-awareness. Alamin natin kung ano ‘yong triggers natin, ano ‘yong nagiging dahilan kaya tayo nakaka-feel ng stress. It could be physical, mental, emotional stress,” she said.
“Minsan kasi nakadepende sa tao, for example, yong stressful sa akin, maaaring hindi nakaka-stress sa’yo. Meron ka dalawang option, pwede pagaanin ko ‘yong pakiramdam ko habang nakararanas ako ng stress or magiging action-oriented ako, aalamin ko kung ano ang dahilan ng stress, titingnan ko kung kaya ko gawan ng paraan, kapag hindi, iibahin ko yong pagtingin ko sa nagti-trigger sa akin,” she added.
When it is needed to seek a professional help
Gacott said that a person must also be aware with the signs that a professional intervention is needed.
“Tingnan natin kung tayo ay masyadong distress na, sobrang affected ka na personally ng mga bagay na nangyayari sa iyo. Another thing ay hindi lang ikaw, pati ‘yong ibang aspeto ng buhay mo, affected na rin yong trabaho mo, family mo, social life, titingnan mo ‘yong behavior mo baka may nagbabago na,” she said.
An individual must also look on the level of safety if what he or she thinks could harm others or own self. It includes thinking about death or committing suicide, and Gacott stressed that is a sign of alarm.
“Pati change of behavioral pattern, for example hindi ka na kumakain, biglang hindi ka na naliligo, ayaw mo na mag-ayos ng sarili. Kung titingnan natin, simple siya pero kapag may change of pattern sa behavior mo, medyo kakaiba na ‘yon,” she said.
For those who need someone to talk to, PMHA could be reached on their online support through 0917-565-2036 or send an email on firstname.lastname@example.org; locals could also reach PMHA-Palawan through their facebook page.