With the passage of the Philippine Mental Health Law or Republic Act 11036, the spotlight on mental health has become even brighter. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions afflict many, but the stigma attached to these conditions have prevented those with these illnesses from asking for help and getting the proper treatment. Let’s dig into the basics and get informed about this global health challenge.
The World Health Organization (WHO) Fact Sheet on Adolescent Health in 2018 indicates that “depression is the third leading cause of illness and disability among adolescents, and suicide is the third leading cause of death in older adolescents (15 to 19 years).” The WHO report also states that majority of mental health disorders begin at age 14, but are mostly undetected and untreated.
On a global scale, more than 300 million people live with depression, with more women suffering from depression than men. The National Center for Mental Health reports that 3.3 million Filipinos suffered from depression in 2015.
WHO data sets the figure of about 800,000 suicides per year. In 2015, data showed that 78% were from low- and middle-income countries. In the Philippines, 2,558 cases of death by suicide were recorded in 2012, and 2,009 of these suicides were males.
What you need to know about depression
The media coverage on mental health issues and social media exposure of suicides, especially those of celebrities like Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, have raised the level of awareness and opened up the discussion on depression and mental health.
Depression is not about mood fluctuations or emotional reactions to daily life problems, which is the common understanding of the older generations. It is a serious health condition, which may affect personal, family and work conditions. At worst, depression can lead to suicide and death.
As defined by WHO, depression is a common mental disorder characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities one would normally enjoy, plus an inability to carry out regular day-to-day activities, for at least 2 weeks. It has been found to involve a chemical imbalance in the brain.
Symptoms and Treatment
Feelings of sadness, helplessness, tiredness and pain may be signs of depression.
If any 5 of the symptoms on this checklist are experienced for at least 2 weeks, you, your friends or family membersmay have depression:
- Depressed mood, especially in the morning
- Tiredness or lack of energy
- Feeling worthless or guilt
- Difficulty in focusing, remembering details, and making decisions.
- Inability to sleep or too much sleep
- No interest in activities
- Recurring thoughts of death or suicide (not just a fear of death).
- Restlessness or slowing down
- Weight loss or weight gain
The condition is treatable, so it is best to seek help from professionals, and talk about it. Take the first step and ask for help. There are tests to diagnose depression, and treatments including counselling and medication.
Like any other health condition, depression can be diagnosed and treated, but those affected must take that all-important step to come out, seek help, and start doing something to get back to WELLNESS.
Adolescents: health risks and solutions. World Health Organization. (2018 February). Retrieved from
Depression: Key Facts. World Health Organization. (2018, March). Retrieved from
Reyes, Dr K. (2018, February). Is it really all in the mind? On mental health and depression in the Philippines. Retrieved from
Magtubo, C A. (2016, Sept). Mental Health in the Philippines: By the numbers. Retrieved from
How Do I Know if I Have Depression. Retrieved from