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Opinion

AFP mental health program

ROSES AND THORNS - Pia Roces Morato - The Philippine Star

On Oct. 12, 2023, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, through the Office of the Surgeon General, launched its mental health program with Deputy Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Charlton Sean M Gaerlan PN (M), who represented the AFP Chief of Staff, as the guest of honor and speaker.

Prior to this occasion, I had the privilege to visit AFP Chief of Staff General Romeo S. Brawner, who briefly discussed with me his long-time advocacy for mental health within the armed forces. It was very interesting to learn how important it was for him to pay good attention to mental health issues and create awareness among our troops in order to help them understand how mental health plays a vital role in our overall wellbeing. With the theme TROPA: Troop Resilience, Optimum Performance and Mental Health Awareness, the goal is to ensure that mental health issues are addressed while fostering a culture of support within the organization.

In the World Health Organization, mental health is rendered as a basic human right and it is crucial to personal, community and socio-economic development. Talking about mental health creates a positive impact in our communities by making all those who suffer seek the necessary help they need and find adequate support on their road to recovery.

They say that more often than not, most people tend to make a distinction between the mind and body when in fact, poor mental health has been shown to be detrimental to physical health and vice versa. People diagnosed with depression, for example, are said to have a 40 percent higher risk of developing heart disease, so it makes sense to understand the relationship between the mind and the body in terms of our overall health.

The problem, however, is the stigma associated with mental health that includes the reluctance of people to seek help, which is why it is important to normalize conversations about it and be able to talk openly regarding the issues. While it is easier for us to communicate our thoughts on physical ailments, including the different kinds of illnesses that we are able to differentiate, on the other side of things, it is also important to learn about the different types of mental illnesses that present unique symptoms and behaviors.

Having an open dialogue about mental health can help everyone heal, as it empowers our thought processes in overcoming challenges and assists us in making informed decisions. Not to mention, good mental health fosters better communication and builds better relationships.

Our troops are trained to respond to combat situations that can cause a lot of stress that lead to many health problems. It is for this very reason that we espouse better understanding in order to have access to proper medical care that includes appropriate therapy when needed. The same applies for the rest of us who combat life’s struggles in our own different ways. Since having open conversations about mental health is important, the AFP has introduced their mental health web pages that aim to improve access to mental health support in order to ensure both performance and well being of our personnel.

In truth, whether we are in the service or not, we all owe it to each other to stay in good mental and physical health. As for our military personnel, whom we have always looked up to in terms of taking good care of their physical health and endurance as required by their profession, it is important to note that, at present, studies have shown that mental health is equally essential to the overall success of their mission.

We are grateful to all those who have seen this very important aspect in the lives of our troops as they continue to contribute their expertise for our service men and women, together with our AFP Chief of Staff General Romeo S. Brawner who stands on the frontlines with every member of the armed forces, being both physically prepared and mentally strong and resilient, ready to face any challenge.

Therefore, when discussing well-being, it is necessary to hold the same amount of importance for both our physical and mental health. They simply go hand in hand.

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ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES

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