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DOH, Leni tackle problems arising from social media

The Department of Health (DOH) expressed concern yesterday over the possible impact of social media on the mental health of Filipinos, especially the youth. According to DOH spokesman Eric Tayag, while social media is a way to connect to people, it also has a “backlash.” AP Photo/Aaron Favila

MANILA, Philippines -  The Department of Health (DOH) expressed concern yesterday over the possible impact of social media on the mental health of Filipinos, especially the youth.

According to DOH spokesman Eric Tayag, while social media is a way to connect to people, it also has a “backlash.”

“The new (cause) of depression on social media is bashing. Some people have difficulty coping with bashing and we want to protect them, especially the adolescents because they are vulnerable,” he noted in a press briefing celebrating World Health Day.

Tayag claimed there are now local and foreign studies being done by associations or support groups to establish the possible effects of a person’s mental health, particularly depression, and prevent negative effects like suicide.

He added data from the DOH’s 24-hour suicide prevention hotline, Hopeline Project, could be used to assess the situation in the Philippines. 

The DOH launched the project in September 2016 in partnership with the World Health Organization and the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation to provide a support system for those who are having suicidal thoughts.  

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So far, most of the callers suffer from depression due to failed romance. 

The hotline received 3,479 calls in 2016 and 605 of the callers claimed to be depressed, 496 inquired about depression and suicide while 479 admitted experiencing stress and possible depression.

Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial has underscored the need for everyone to know the telltale signs of depression, which “can happen to anyone.”

“You can detect depression by looking at a person. So if he or she is no longer able to carry out daily tasks, then that’s a telltale sign of depression. For example, if a person who is usually taking a bath but stopped doing that, that’s a telltale sign of depression,” she said. 

Ubial maintained “it is really incumbent upon us to be concerned with the people around us” to ensure that help is provided to those who may be experiencing depression.

“You cannot just ignore what’s happening around you. (If we do that), I think we’ll have a society that will harbor increasing rates of depression,” she added.

Social media    an ‘emerging   difficulty’

A victim of online harassment, Vice President Leni Robredo has highlighted the rise of social media as one of the emerging difficulties in dealing with attacks against women, especially those holding leadership positions in media and government.

In her keynote speech at the Forum on Women in Leadership Roles held in Cape Town, South Africa on April 1 to 5, Robredo said women become easy targets of attacks using the internet as platform.

“Where physical security only requires good locksmiths and prudence in one’s schedule or the places where we can be seen, finding sanctuaries against misogyny, harassment, alternative facts and crass language on social media is a lot more complicated,” Robredo said.

Robredo joined the Philippine delegation to the forum hosted by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, a German foundation with worldwide regional offices aimed to promote freedom and democracy in different countries and which has been closely working with its partners in the Philippines for the past 25 years. 

According to Robredo, the world is experiencing gender enlightenment but it is not fast enough, noting that “in my experience… we need to change the way we look at the problem.”

“It is time to come up with a global effort to educate women around the world about their rights against abuse, especially emerging ones like second-generational bias and harassment on social media,” Robredo said.

Second-generation gender bias involves practices that may appear neutral or non-sexist as they apply to everyone, but which discriminate against women because they reflect the values of the men who created or developed the setting, usually a workplace.

“Once women recognize the effects of second-generation bias and all other forms of harassment, they feel empowered, not victimized, because they can do something about it,” she added.

The oppressive conditions that threaten women, Robredo said, should be reduced and removed to allow more women to occupy leadership positions and help build an inclusive world.

The Vice President said it is important to take a closer look at the structures of organizations and make fundamental changes if needed to create spaces for women to take on leadership roles. 

She emphasized there should be a shift in the way of strengthening organizational structures, training designs and mentoring activities of women organizations. 

The global narrative on women, she said, pointed to women’s issues that should be central to policymaking as men are joining this conversation.

The Vice President said gender equality is not a “soft” issue that forms part of a footnote, because reality has shown that when women are heard more, societies thrive better and have unique strengths. 

“Women are not temperamental just because of biology; we are emotional because we care a lot. We are intuitive because we are beings of empathy. We can take charge when needed and make 10 decisions per minute because our brains are wired for survival in whatever circumstance,” Robredo said.

She noted that women in governance in particular are endowed with even more amazing skills. 

“You sometimes choose not to speak, and yet affect the entire conversation. But when you do, you do it with power that includes rather than excludes, with foresight and depth,” Robredo said.

“You bring so much to the table, whether at home or in business. You are heroes in your own right,” she said, referring to the women.

             – With Pia Lee-Brago

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