Mental Health Awareness: Keep On Rolling with Vic Flauta (Part 2)

Q&A with special guest Vic Flauta

Yesterday, we published part 1 of Mental Health Awareness: Keep on Rolling with Vic Flauta.

As promised, here’s the Question and Answer and part 2 of the blog post.

Emile (E): How can we tell if the person beside us, or in your team, is in need of help?

Vic (V): “I was only 15 when I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression (and later on with another mental illness). I did not actually know what hit me at the time. I was always an outgoing person who loved to mingle with friends. But one day, I just found myself withdrawing from everyone even if that meant not attending my classes anymore.

“I went to Pisay [Philippine Science] Davao for highschool and as a Regional Scholar (meaning a student who hailed from outside of Davao City), I stayed in the dormitory inside our school campus. What I can remember is I would skip classes to go back to my room in our dormitory to hide inside my cabinet.

“You see, there were many things I could not understand which was happening to me back then.

Maybe because I was young then (only a Sophomore). Plus there was no internet at that time, and therefore there was limited access to information about what I was going through. I lost interest in a lot of things all of a sudden just like that, and my insecurities were all blown out of proportion in my mind.

“I was doing very well in school prior to having this illness – good grades, was joining a few competitions, was president of our class, and had very good relationship with my friends and my teachers. But these all changed when I had depression. It did not even bother me anymore that I was failing my subjects. I just lived each day, trying to hurdle through and enduring all the difficult emotions (mood swings included) and thoughts which I could not understand. Looking back, it still brings me to tears remembering what I had to go through at such a young age.

“So, among the things to look out for is a drastic change in behavior or performance, and mood swings, specially if there was a prior crisis that took place. Please note, however, that depression is not your usual sad day because your crush did not say hi to you or did not like your status on Facebook. Neither is it a sign of weakness nor inability to cope with life’s problems.

Depression is an illness.

Just like Diabetes, there is a biological cause behind it. But be careful though, as not all changes in behavior or performance is due to depression. Also, it’s not all the time that you’re gonna see obvious “symptoms.” Sometimes, knowing if someone is clinically depressed takes a process. Try to reach out to the person, or if the person is not very vocal, try to be observant.”

[Reach out to your supervisor, HR or Health and Wellness professionals to seek help.]

E: How can we, officemates, better support people who are going through mental health issues?

V: “You know, Emile, if my mom gave up on me, I would not be here in this world anymore. I would have already crossed over to the other world. Loss of hope and suicide thoughts are not uncommon for someone undergoing depression.

“I was very lucky to have very supportive friends, and teachers and professors, while I was in high school and college, and they all still hold a special place in my heart up until now because they each played an important role towards my wellness.

“Don’t give up on your teammate, friend or family member who is undergoing depression. But instead, be their undying source of hope and strength.

“It’s not easy to be a friend to someone who has depression. It takes a lot of genuine love, care, patience, and understanding for that person.

“Sometimes, just being there (your mere presence) means a lot. Most of the time, it’s when the mental health sufferer is alone that the negative thoughts start to play in his mind. Always let the person feel (and know) that he is not alone, and that there is hope. Always be ready with your listening ears and compassionate heart, and be approachable all the time. Just by listening and letting the person talk and unburden is enough help already.

“Learn what things to say or not say. Don’t make someone undergoing depression feel like it’s his fault, nor tell him to just brush it off.

Sometimes, saying the wrong things could push a person to end his life. So, be very careful. If you have nothing good to say, then don’t say anything at all.

“I believe there are different approaches to professionally treating depression. There are medications, psychotherapy, neurotherapy, etc. And these can all be very costly. There was a time my mom was spending 10k monthly on my medicines alone. Add to that the doctor’s weekly consultation fees of more or less 2k per hour, plus the fees for lab tests that had to be done regularly to make sure my blood chemistry was okay and not affected by the medicines I was taking. Remember, I am talking about some 15-20 years ago. These could even be more expensive now. I don’t know how you can help on the financial aspect but it pays to be aware of this as well. When I said my mom did not give up on me, I meant it seriously.

“I had been out of depression since I was 25, and that was when I was able to finish college, got my license in Nutrition and Dietetics, and started working in the corporate world. Luckily, I have not had any more symptoms nor had any relapse since. Yes, I still get sad, lonely, and disappointed every now and then, but have not experienced being depressed the way I did while I was still studying. While My depression happened during my school years, the needs of a person undergoing depression is the same be it in school or in the workplace, even at home. It’s the same.”

E: If one has current mental health concerns, how does one ask for help?

V: “Mental health sufferers are so much luckier now in the sense that there are more mental health awareness campaigns and campaigns against stigma happening in the recent years. Due to these, help is more accessible and there is less stigma associated with mental health illnesses.

“When I had my depression, I read a lot of books in our library in Pisay [Philippine Science Highschool] before I found that one particular book about depression, and that’s how I came to know that I can be helped. I was actually the one who reached out to our school’s guidance counselor at that time to ask her to find me a psychiatrist.

You see, if there’s something happening to you or in you that you do not understand, please know that there is help if you seek for it.

“If you are working in a private company and you think that you are undergoing depression, or having any mental illness at that, try to seek help through your [Supervisor or] HR. If you are worried about discrimination, then maybe seek for professional help outside of your office [see more notes below]. If you lack the funds, then seek out support groups who don’t charge fees. In case you are not sure at all if what you are experiencing is a mental health illness, then go to facilities that provide psychological tests to know your real condition. Bottom line is, there is help. And if you find out through tests that you have it, please know that it is not the end of the world. I was only 15 when I was diagnosed with depression, and I suffered for 10 long years. But look at me now. Life is beautiful.

“Lastly, get enough sleep, eat on time, talk it out with someone you trust (don’t keep it to yourself), PRAY, and never lose hope.”

We at the Engagement Imperative, are very thankful to Vic, for his selflessness in sharing what he went through. It was not easy to look back and recount those 10 years but he did. He did to help out the silent sufferers and shed light that amidst and after all this, life is beautiful.

Personally, I hope that as we become more aware. When we are aware, we also become more understanding and helpful. As Vic said earlier, this is not something they wanted nor is it something to just brush off.

If you are in the Philippines, here are contact numbers that might help.

Thanks to Edwin Cachuela, R.N. at the Philippine Mental Health Facility, for the information below.

Natasha Goulbourn Foundation aim to make these individuals feel that someone is ready to listen to them.

These are their hotline numbers:

Information and Crisis Intervention Center
(02) 804-HOPE (4673)
0917-558-HOPE (4673) or (632) 211-4550
0917-852-HOPE (4673) or (632) 964-6876
0917-842-HOPE (4673) or (632) 964-4084

In Touch Crisis Lines:
0917-572-HOPE or (632) 211-1305
(02) 893-7606 (24/7)
(02) 893-7603 (Mon-Fri, 9 am-5 pm)
Globe (63917) 800.1123 or (632) 506.7314
Sun (63922) 893.8944 or (632) 346.8776

If you are in India, you can reach out to the Vandrevala Foundation.

If you are in the USA, the biggest organization for mental health is the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Europe took the lead in digital mental health care thru their Mental Health Foundation.

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