Even among the Gen Z population, mental health discourse continues to be a struggle. We have seen firsthand how, in our society, asking for professional help can have you labeled as weak. We find this unfortunate considering that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that around 26 percent of adolescents aged 18 and older are at a risk for depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.
In line with this, we decided to ask people our age about their experience with therapy and why it has or has not worked for them. Coming from Talang Dalisay, a youth-led organization aiming to start discussions and to fight mental health stigma in the country, hearing and amplifying these stories has allowed us to gain new perspectives in the field of mental health counseling. Most importantly, we hope that you, as the reader, are able to take away a new perspective or find a similar one of your own.
(Note: Two of our interviewees preferred their identity to be anonymous.)
What was the reason you decided to seek therapy?
Anonymous 1: I was at a really lost point in my life. I was in Grade 7 and I didn’t really know how to handle my emotions, and I think I had a problem with friends. I just entered a really dark place for me. I told my parents one night that I was having a really hard time in school and needed to seek some professional help… I did it for about six months.
Around 26 percent of adolescents aged 18 and older are at a risk for depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.
Anonymous 2: I was having a really hard time at home and at school; my parents would fight every day and it started to affect me to the point where I lost all my friends and my motivation to do schoolwork.
Juno: I decided to seek therapy when I was around 12 or 13. I asked my mom about it because I didn’t feel good mentally and I knew she was going to one (a therapist), so I asked if I could see one too.
Jack: I was having trouble with my moods and my behavior started to get affected. I would just cry myself to sleep. In 2018, when I received my first Palanca Award was when the pressure of school, my extra-curricular activities, and my family really got to me and I hit a very low point. This point was when I decided that I really needed to seek help.
What was the process like of seeking therapy? Was it difficult?
Anonymous 1: At the start of every session she’d give me a paper and there’d be simple questions about my life, family and friends, so I’d write them all down… and then when I bring up a certain event, she’d help me process how I felt instead of what was going on. I think that was really helpful… I just felt really safe because I think with therapists you can always say “Can this stay between us?”
I think I knew (that the type of therapy was right) when I could say everything out loud to my therapist without being afraid. I could really tell her a lot of things without the fear of my parents finding out or it spreading around school.
Anonymous 2: It made me feel better and understand my emotions more. It also was like my way of opening up, since I’d normally keep everything to myself since I’d have no one to talk to.
Juno: My mom and I went to different clinics and filled up some forms. I answered some initial questionnaires, and my info was passed along until I found the right therapist for me.
Jack: The process was a long journey. It all started when I first sought help from a private family doctor. During a particularly low point, I even tried a suicide prevention hotline. After which, I tried to receive compensation from the DOH in order to help pay for sessions; however, it was only after I was able to publish an article in a major news outlet that I was able to receive the necessary support.
How would you describe the public’s current opinion on seeking mental health therapy?
Anonymous 1: I heard my relatives and friends shame me, thinking it was fake, and all in my head. I really hoped I could get the support I needed, but instead it was just “Oh, you’re making this up, you’re faking this, you’re wasting money.” I know a lot of my friends who actually struggle with mental health problems, but they can’t get the help they need because their parents are really not open to it and that also creates a mindset in the kids themselves like, “I don’t need professional help. It’s all my fault.”
‘You don’t have to be mentally ill to seek therapy. Sometimes people just need to be heard.’
Anonymous 2: I feel like Filipinos or Filipino adults have prejudice or preconceived opinions about therapy and mental illness, which make it taboo and difficult to talk about. Many Filipinos see therapy as a negative, or as a waste of money/luxury, because of the way they see mental illness. I think what needs to change is how people understand therapy and mental health.
Juno: I feel like a lot of young people are very open to it, but there’s still a large amount of people who judge those who seek help.
Jack: I think that, particularly in the professional sector, there is still a great stigma in our culture. In particular, my mom has been denied opportunities due to the transparency of her own mental health issues.
To whom would you recommend therapy?
Juno: Anyone, really. You don’t have to be mentally ill to seek therapy. Sometimes people just need to be heard.
Jack: I recommend therapy to everyone. We all have issues that therapy could help. Kailangan na kailangan natin ng therapy. Wag mahiya mag-therapy. The right people will love you and support you. They won’t change. I know with the stigma it’s difficult but ituloy mo. It gave me love. It gave me different perspectives on how I apply to my life.