Maine Mendoza affirms what we should all know by now about mental health

If you’re mentally ill and you’ve ever tried to talk to somebody else about your affliction, it can be difficult just getting the first two words out: “I’m depressed.” The details can be heavy and hard to explain, but often, simply admitting that you have depression already opens the door for many preemptive opinions from some people who think they’ve got it all figured out. Maybe you just need to get out more. You can just choose happiness, you know?

A contestant on the “Juan for All, All for Juan” segment of Eat Bulaga, sharing her personal experience with mental illness, was the unfortunate recipient of this kind of condescension from host Joey de Leon — and on national live television, at that.

Iyang depression, gawa-gawa lang ng mga tao ‘yan,” said de Leon. “Ginawa nila sa sarili nila.”

Oo, dine-depress ninyo yung sarili ninyo, tapos nagkakaroon ng sakit,” agreed Jose Manalo. “Kaya yung stress, diyan nag-uumpisa ‘yun.”

Co-host Maine Mendoza, however, was not about to let such a reckless discussion slide. “Pero hindi biro ‘yun, ah, ‘yung depression,” she said, to which de Leon responded: “Aba, aba, aba, bakit?”

Mendoza explained: “Siyempre, maraming nakakaranas ng ganun, lalo na sa mga kabataan. Kaya dapat, kapag may nakakaranas ng ganun, bigyan natin ng suporta.

Hindi, hindi, huwag niyong suportahan,” de Leon insisted. “Gawa-gawa lang niya yun.” Manalo, ever helpful, added: “It’s all in the mind.” The feed for Mendoza, Manalo and their co-hosts immediately cut out, after which de Leon proceeded to take a few more cheap shots at mentally ill people, with some good, old-fashioned classism for good measure.

The internet, like Mendoza, was having none of it.

 

According to World Health Organization Philippines, as of 2017, over 3.29 million Filipinos suffer from depression — the highest amount of cases in Southeast Asia. On the global level, more than 300 million people are said to be depressed. Mendoza’s firm stance against making a mockery of depression is not for nothing: it can lead to suicide, which has become one of the leading causes of death in the world, especially among the youth.  

Earlier this year, the Philippine Senate unanimously approved the Mental Health Act, which is the first of its kind in the country. Through it, people suffering from depression and other “invisible” illnesses and disorders can have better access to mental health services and programs in the public health system, including basic services at the community level and psychiatric, psychosocial, and neurological services in regional, provincial, and tertiary hospitals.

For de Leon to use the reach and influence he has to spread insensitive, alienating and, potentially dangerous messages about mental health is not only ignorant and irresponsible, it’s downright cruel. It contributes nothing to the conversation that must be had about depression, and even derails it. Because we do need to talk about it — understanding, sympathy, and awareness save lives. Otherwise, people suffering from it will feel more helpless and invalidated; unable to open up about their struggles.

In a few statements that are concise yet well thought-out, Mendoza proved to be the polar opposite: a true role model, bravely standing up for what she believes is right and able to voice out her message with grace, respect, and most of all, truth. She conveyed that depression is real, and it can be terrible, so we need to take it seriously and take concrete action. And that’s one of the best kinds of support you can give.

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