How to find hope: National Mental Health Summit 2022

To address the stigma surrounding mental health, the National Mental Health Summit 2022 was held at the Samsung Hall of SM Aura Premier on October 25 and 26. The event was organized by mental health tech company Mind You Philippines in cooperation with the Department of Health (DOH), city of Taguig, SM Aura Premier, and the Australian Embassy.

Throughout the two-day summit, guest speakers held mental health seminars followed by panel discussions. At the venue, guests could also sign up for workshops and explore booths around the event space.

In the event’s opening plenary, actress Iza Calzado and CNN Philippines Senior Anchor Rico Hizon addressed the country’s ongoing mental health crisis, citing a study by analytics company Gallup that revealed how Filipino workers have the highest burnout rates in Southeast Asia. To tackle this crisis, the summit aimed to reduce mental health stigma by focusing on six pillars: physical health, art therapy, youth and education, financial stress, food and nutrition, and mental health itself. Interactive booths at the venue thematically corresponded to these pillars.

Subsequently, the opening remarks given by Mind You CEO Yuri Marshall highlighted the relationship between mental health and everyday life, stating that understanding this connection will allow people to take better control of their overall well-being. DOH Officer in Charge, Undersecretary Dr. Beverly Ho, followed up by stressing the need to bring mental health issues out of clinical settings and into the community. She posited that such issues should focus less on the healthcare system and more on self-care skills. “The issue of mental health is actually making sure that many of us in our own spaces are able to help contribute to addressing [it],” Ho stated.

Trials of today

The first day’s morning session featured Country Chair of Shell Companies in the Philippines Lorelei Quiambao-Osial who focused on the responsibility of company leaders to create a space without mental health stigma and with accessibility to mental health resources. This was followed by mental health advocate Jerika Ejercito, who recounted her journey toward seeking help for her own mental health condition and finding hope as an antidote to her fear.

Next was a panel discussion moderated by Hizon, with Marshall and Dr. Ho returning as panelists. They were joined by Dr. Francis Dimalanta, the assistant head of the Institute of Pediatrics and Child Health at St. Luke’s Medical Center; Miguel Valdez, Mind You’s advisory board member and head of operations; and Nadine Lustre, an artist and performer. Together they shed light on the current state of the Philippine mental healthcare system, challenges faced by children with mental health concerns, and ongoing programs aimed at tackling the mental health crisis. 

The afternoon talks, hosted by anchor Rizza Diaz and beauty queen Zara Carbonell, began with a joint presentation by wellness doctor Dr. Susana Balingit and Chef Rosemarie Pagcaliwangan from The Farm at San Benito. Emphasizing the link between nutrition and well-being, they prepared plant-based, vegan dishes using local ingredients, dispelling the myth of expensive products being necessary for living a healthy lifestyle. They were followed by Elle Adda-Lane, the founder of Fuel to Flourish, who emphasized the importance of recognizing and interrupting stress-inducing thought patterns and replacing them with healthier ones, and Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte, who pushed for policy-driven mental health resources on the community level. 

A second panel discussion then took place, moderated by anchor Angela Lagunzad. Ejercito joined as a panelist, alongside The Wellness Collective CEO Christina Sana, Mind You Senior Psychologist Rea Celine Villa, and Mind You Managing Director Maica Teves. Focusing on mental health in various communities, they discussed mental health for both men and women, wellness in the workplace, and overcoming stigma and discrimination.

After the panel discussion, Dr. Joseph Singh, the Programme Specialist at the United Nations Population Fund, disproved common misconceptions at the root of mental health stigma and spoke about demographic factors that correlate with mental health risks. Jetro Rafael, the founder of Van Gogh is Bipolar, then shared his insights on self-acceptance and living with mental illness.

In the next session, Dr. Dae Lee, a corporate educator, underlined the need to look at the sociocultural origins of mental health statistics, providing an action plan for leaders who wish to create an atmosphere open to mental health conversation within the community or workplace. He was followed by Dr. Candy Drilon-Dalman, the co-founder and Medical Director of Centro Holistico. who advocated for lifestyle changes as a way to pursue holistic health, with a particular focus on the relationship between food, the gut, and the brain. 

The day was capped off by video messages from Senator Risa Hontiveros, who stressed the importance of personal skills and training in mental health response; Vice President Sara Duterte, who expressed support for the event; and The Farm at San Benito Medical Chief Dr. Marian Alonzo, who spoke about moods, mental well-being, and holistic health. 

Creating for the future

The morning session of the second day of talks was hosted by local artist Denise Silva. In this segment, Marshall and Adda-Lane returned for a joint talk about small lifestyle changes, such as focused breathing and positive internal thoughts, as a way to achieve mental well-being. They were followed by Augusto Cosio Jr., the treasurer of the Automotive Association of the Philippines, who spoke about good personal finance habits, such as properly handling debts and keeping a balance sheet, to dispel fears about being unable to meet present and future needs.

Next was a panel discussion by returning panelist Villa and Adda-Lane, joined by Hannah Palinginan, an online content creator, and Diana Dayao, the corporate social responsibility head at social media app Kumu. With a focus on addressing concerns taken directly from the audience, they spoke about various topics such as mental health measures in the community, creative burnout, and balancing personal priorities with responsibilities.

The afternoon talks, hosted by actress Yassi Pressman, opened with a video on mindful journaling as a means to encourage creativity and self-care by writer and creative coach Belle Mapa. 

For the last panel discussion, the participants were JM Quiblat, a musician and video producer; Abby Asistio, a singer-songwriter; Kat Alano, the founder and Ceo of Empower Philippines; Victor Cosungi, the founder and CEO of Victor Cosungi Development Corporation; Small Laude, a vlogger and entrepreneur; and Issa Colmenares, a Fundraising Ambassador at Mind You. Each spoke of their personal journeys overcoming mental health concerns and shared insights gained from their experiences to the audience. 

The panel was followed by Marc Laurence Santos and Miguel Valdez, Mind You’s UI/UX designer and head of operations, respectively, who delivered a joint presentation of their company’s two newly launched projects. First was the Mind You app, which includes a mood tracker and journal, psychologist appointment booking, access to a community forum, and other mental health resources. Second was the mental health hotline, which aims to be the frontline in mental health response.

Next was Cinty Yniguez, the CEO of The Well Nourished Co., who advocated for proper meal planning and a diet mainly composed of whole, plant-based food for sustainable well-being, and then a joint talk by Adda-Lane and Christina Sang, CEO of The Wellnest Collective, who both spoke about mindful breathing and meditation as a way to allow the brain to rest properly. 

Finally, LJ Navera, sound healer at The Farm at San Benito, showed the power of sound and vibrations on the mind, which he compared to the influence of music on mood. He also spoke about the benefits of making sounds using instruments, such as with a didgeridoo or Tibetan singing bowls, before ending with a demonstration of how instruments can be used to create a meditative atmosphere. 

In his closing remarks, Marshall expressed his gratitude to attendees, organizers, and partners for making the event possible. “Let’s continue moving forward and let’s find hope together,” he said, echoing the sentiment that lay at the core of the event: hope for the country to unite in becoming more open to mental health concerns. 

Bea Condes

By Bea Condes

Leave a Reply