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Unpopular Opinion

Sad truth: Not everyone can just 'go to therapy'—there are bills to pay

By SAAB LARIOSA Published Nov 20, 2022 1:40 pm

Trigger warning: This article contains mentions of mental health problems.

There's one saying that I heard from one of our psychology professors that follows me to this day: "You don't really want to study psych, you just want to study yourself."

That line followed me as I finished my four-year course and let my degree become a fun fact rather than a career. Did I truly want to know all these theories and learn how to administer these (frankly dated) tests, or did I just want to gather all the tools to figure myself out?

The urge to get to know ourselves and scrutinize why we do the things we do has always been human nature, even more so during the pandemic, which changed life as we know it.

Since the start of the pandemic, the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) has had an uptick in calls for their crisis hotline calls, and the Philippine Statistics Authority reported a 57% increase in the country’s suicide rate in 2020 compared to the preceding years.

With the conversation on mental health now thankfully becoming more and more mainstream, the topic of therapy and seeking help has become one that's become easier to talk about as well. But another topic that's as taboo as mental health should also be considered in the discussion: one's finances.

Going to therapy in the Philippines is no easy feat—financially and emotionally. A single session can go as high as P1,500 to P4,000 per session, and most clinics ask for an intake fee of almost P3,000 for new patients. It also requires a lot of self-awareness and time to reflect which triggers trauma and can leave someone unproductive.

The conversation should go deeper than "go to therapy," but "how can we make therapy more accessible to the public?"

The easy rebuttal would be that that's only a small price to pay for one's well-being, that you are not your productivity. But tell that to someone living paycheck-to-paycheck amid this inflation. Tell that to someone who provides solely for their family and has a no-work-no-pay policy. It's the sad truth: You can't simply always think of your mental health when you're going hungry.

In my own experience, a few minutes before my own sessions, I would find myself feeling more stressed that I had just spent almost P3,000 to talk to someone for an hour. And when paying a chunk of my salary for another booking, my finger hovers over that "send" button, mentally calculating how much more I would sacrifice to get to that promised "better."

With the rising prices nowadays, going to therapy just seemed like an additional bill that, unlike electricity, water, and food, I could live without. It may seem insane to admit how much money makes its way into our mindsets, but I'm not alone in this, and I and many others are tired of money being as taboo as mental health.

The truth is that the conversation should go deeper than "go to therapy," but "how can we make therapy more accessible to the public?" It's definitely not easy, but it doesn't mean that we should simply throw away our mental health forever. 

Just this 2022, the World Happiness Report said that the Philippines is the second happiest country in Southeast Asia and the 60th out of 146 nations across the globe. And while I hope and pray that's true, an interesting caveat in the study found that “there have been large increases in the proportion of people who give money to charity, help strangers, and do voluntary work in every global region."

If we can't go to the traditional means of healing just yet, perhaps there's something to look into non-traditional and more holistic ways of seeking help.

Terms such as "community care," "reparenting," and "doing the work" have made their way into our timelines and people's way of living as of late. There's much to be said for making life a holistic and healing-centered exploration, rather than taking just an hour of our time to focus on mental health.

It remains true that seeking a professional is still the best way to analyze and figure out yourself, but we can't invalidate others' mental health journeys if they're not hurting anybody and that's what works for them—and their current financial situation.

Meanwhile, there are also some insurances that offer mental health services. Don't be afraid to reach out to your employer if your health coverage provides that. There are also free health services in the country such as NCMH and Philippine General Hospital (PGH) that provide free (or as free as it gets) counseling. 

Just like with this degree and every other way I've found through the years, wanting to study yourself doesn't only happen in therapy.

If you, your friend, or your family member is dealing with mental health problems, you may call the National Mental Health Crisis Hotline at 1553 (Luzon-wide, landline toll-free), 0966-351-4518 or 0917-899-USAP (8727) for Globe/TM users, or 0908-639-2672 for Smart users.