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Kung Hei Fat Choy! Happy New Year

AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) - February 15, 2021 - 12:00am

We love Chinese food, we follow Chinese traditions but we have two problems with China: the West Philippine Sea and the Wuhan virus better known as COVID-19 virus.

For the sake of happiness and prosperity let me make it clear that there is a dividing line that separates our Filipino-Chinese heritage from our relationship with mainland China. The latter still needs to achieve peace, understanding and mutual respect.

Last year, when everyone was celebrating the Year of the Rat, little did we know that the months of January and February would be our last days before the pandemic that placed the whole world into a standstill. We were definitely caught off guard by the unknown and up to this day we are flabbergasted.

When will this pandemic ever end? Will the Year of the Ox bring us good cheer? It has already taken a toll on mental health that is worsening day by day. The containment measures of lockdowns, closure of schools, parks, malls and vacation destinations for children and the elderly have created tremendous isolation and depression.

Virtual meetings, online schooling and work from home scenarios are now a problem more than a solution. At the onset of the lockdown last year, it was a welcome treat, now it has become a dangerous feat. Mental health issues are starting to develop. Different trigger points cause such detrimental effects to different age groups.

As early as May 2020, the United Nations’ Executive Summary on COVID-19 and the Need for Action of Mental Health stated: “Although the COVID-19 crisis is, in the first instance, a physical health crisis, it has the seeds of a major mental health crisis as well, if action is not taken. Good mental health is critical to the functioning of society at the best of times.”

It goes on to say that “psychological distress in populations is widespread. Many people are distressed due to the immediate health impacts of the virus and the consequences of physical isolation. Many are afraid of infection, dying and losing family members. Individuals have been physically distanced from loved ones and peers. Millions of people are facing economic turmoil, having lost or being at risk of losing their income and livelihoods. Frequent misinformation and rumors about the virus and deep uncertainty about the future are common sources of distress.”

The UN group gave three recommendations to address the issues:

First, apply a whole-of-society approach to promote, protect and care for mental health: including mental health and psychosocial considerations in national response plans across relevant sectors, for example, supporting learning and nurturing environments for children and young people who are confined at home; responding proactively to reducing pandemic-related adversities that are known to harm mental health, for example, domestic violence and acute impoverishment; and crafting all communications to be sensitive to their potential impact on people’s mental health, for example by communicating empathy for people’s distress and including advice for their emotional well-being.

Second, ensure widespread availability of emergency mental health and psychosocial support. Achieving this objective during the COVID-19 pandemic means: (1) supporting community actions that strengthen social cohesion and reduce loneliness, for example supporting activities that help isolated older adults stay connected; (2) investing in mental health interventions that can be delivered remotely, for example, quality-assured tele-counseling for frontline health care workers and people at home with depression and anxiety; (3) ensuring uninterrupted in-person care for severe mental health conditions by formally defining such care as essential services to be continued throughout the pandemic; and (4) protecting and promoting the human rights of people with severe mental health conditions and psychosocial disabilities, for example by monitoring whether they have equal access to care for COVID-19.

Third, support recovery from COVID-19 by building mental health services for the future. All affected communities will need quality mental health services to support society’s recovery from COVID-19, and this requires investment in the following: (1) using the current momentum of interest in mental health to catalyze mental health reforms, for example by developing programs among community workers so that they can provide support; and (2) organizing community-based services that protect and promote people’s human rights, for example by involving people with experience in the design, implementation and monitoring of services.

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The Year of the Ox. What will it bring? In an interview with The Source (CNN Philippines), geomancer Patrick Lim Fernandez said that while the 2020 Year of the Rat focused on the more aggressive and unstable “yang” energy, the Year of the Ox’s “yin” energy will give a calmer vibe. He added that we can expect a lot less volatility, a lot less chaos, and just a better year overall compared to last year.

Feng shui master Francis Gaw also sees a “really good year” for the health sector which, as we all know, has been severely affected by COVID-19.

Fernandez further said that 2021 is also a good year to be productive, hardworking and helpful. However, he advised people to always seek the truth and go deeper than the surface, especially with the prevalence of fake news.

The public is also reminded to avoid being one side-minded and try to hear different arguments and hold dialogues with one another.

What will give us the might in the Year of the Metal Ox? It is by being calm and, in so doing, control our emotions.

In one Japan Times feature article on the Year of the Ox, it says: “Feb. 12 marks the beginning of the Year of the Ox. The second animal of the Chinese zodiac, the ox denotes the hard work, positivity and honesty that will be manifested in all of us in the coming 12 months... The ox’s earthly branch is associated with yin, which is slow, soft and passive. Its element is earth, representing stability and nourishment.”

Is this what we are waiting for? We need good luck and triple happiness to fight our evils. I hope we start looking into the “wellness” issues of the people. Government pronouncements and actions done during this crisis can be irritating, frustrating and annoying, causing us more strain and anxiety than peace of mind.

CHINESE NEW YEAR
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