Longtime host Joey de Leon’s dismissal of depression as “gawa-gawa” (made up) and “nagpapasosyal lang” (just trying to be elite) on “Eat Bulaga” Thursday has unmasked how poorly the illness is understood in the Philippines.
He has since apologized for remarks, on Friday saying, “Nagkamali po ako (I made a mistake)… Ako’y humihingi po ng paumanhin sa mga napaitan sa mga nabanggit ko, at humihingi ng inyong unawa (I seek forgiveness from those who found my words bitter, and am asking for your understanding).”
He added that his wife and children explained the matter to him, and upon finding out that some of the people close to him suffered from depression, he became even more ashamed of himself.
De Leon said he also called Maine Mendoza, who had tried to counter his remarks on Thursday by saying depression was not a joke and people suffering from it needed help, to apologize on the same day.
Hours before “Eat Bulaga” aired on Friday, Alden Richards also tweeted, “My mom suffered from bipolar depression all her life when she had us. I know every single detail of it and how hard she suffered from it.”
De Leon also apologized to co-host Ryan Agoncillo, who revealed on Instagram on Friday morning that he himself “had to deal with it (depression) for a long time now.”
Agoncillo posted: “Good morning. I hope all is well with you and your family. Like you, I’m all too aware of how real depression is. Having had to deal with it for a long time now, having lost friends, heroes, and even myself to its depths, I know when it rears its ugly head, signs aren’t instant but more like quicksand. I know it cuts across the board, it knows no age, gender, religion, civil, or economic status. What unfolded yesterday was a very painful and familiar exchange. I’ve heard it at the dinner table, in the car on the way to school, and at the office cafeteria, everywhere. The ferocity with which the reaction was released was what made me pay close attention though. Instead of the TV instincts kicking in for a quick draw reaction, I knew I had to remain quiet and not add to the noise. Because it is this very noise that pushes the quiet ones further into a corner. It is good we have this avenue for expression, let’s continue to do so. It is healthier, thank you for this. Mahigpit na yakap para sa iyo at sa mga tahimik (A tight hug for you and for the quiet ones).”
Dr. Shin Young-soo, the World Health Organization Regional Director for the Western Pacific, has stated that depression is not a mere figment of imagination.
During World Health Day in April, Dr. Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, explained that depression is more than just feeling sad or down. Rather, it is characterized by persistent feelings such as sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, guilt, and low self-esteem for at least two weeks.
People with depression can often feel tired. Their sleep and appetite may be disrupted. They also go through mental anguish, which takes a toll on relationships, productivity, and quality of life.
Dr. Shin stressed that if untreated, depression can lead to suicide, which is the second leading cause of death among the youth aged 15 to 29.
More than 300 million people suffer from depression at any given time. This means, WHO says on its website, that depression is a common mental disorder.
In the Western Pacific, which includes the Philippines, 66 million people suffer from the illness.
The number of people living with depression has also gone up by 18 percent from 2005 to 2015 worldwide, according to WHO.
De Leon’s statement that people with depression should not be supported (“Wag niyong suportahan”) is the exact opposite of Dr. Shin’s call back in April: “Let’s talk about depression. I encourage everyone listening today to check in with their family and friends to ask if they’re ok. The healing process often begins with a simple conversation.”
People often suffer in silence as they battle shame, stigma, and hopelessness. To them, Dr. Shin had this to say: “You are not alone”.
WHO stresses that depression is treatable through “talking therapies or antidepressant medication or a combination of these.”
The first step towards recovery, said Dr. Shin, is to ask for help.
Miss International 2016 Kylie Verzosa was also at the World Health Day event, where she disclosed that she herself had been diagnosed with clinical depression. She recalled having feelings of guilt, fear, helplessness, and hopelessness. She also distanced herself from her friends.
“I was alive, but I was dead inside. I woke up every day thinking why I was still here,” Verzosa said.
Thankfully, the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation introduced her to doctors who tried to help. Her family also gave her the support she needed.
Natural treatment, daily exercise, yoga, meditation, a healthy diet, and enough sleep helped pull her through. She also underwent psychotherapy and homeopathy.
Next week, from October 9 to 13, the Philippines will observe National Mental Health week with the theme “Kumusta ka? Tara, usap tayo. Mental health: alamin at busisiin (How are you? Let’s talk. Mental health: find out and learn).”
WHO explains on its website that mental health is “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
“Stigma and discrimination against patients and families prevent people from seeking mental health care,” WHO stressed. “Misunderstanding and stigma surrounding mental ill health are widespread.”
Learn more about depression through this website: http://www.who.int/mental_health/management/depression/en/.