By Ma. Teresa Montemayor
MANILA — Responsible use of social media and technology could help Filipinos achieve better mental health status, a mental health expert said Saturday.
“Ang technology ay nandiyan na, wala na tayong magagawa diyan (The technology is already there and there’s nothing we can do about it). What we need to practice now is responsible use of technology. For example, social media, we’ve had many clients who became victims of bullying not only in school, but also in social media,” Dr. Bernard B. Argamosa, a psychiatrist at the Department of Health-National Center for Mental Health said in an interview at the Philippine News Agency’s “Pros and Cons” forum.
Argamosa said contrary to what many believe, the youth are not the only ones affected by the wrong use of social media but also a great deal of oversees Filipino workers (OFWs) who are battling depression.
“Maniwala kayo sa hindi, mayroon kaming nakikitang umuuwi na (Believe it or not, we see some going home around) 20 to 30 OFWs per month galing Saudi Arabia or the Middle East with psychotic symptoms and this is very alarming,” he said.
While social media helps OFWs connect with their families, Argamosa explained it also creates division within the family.
“Basta may libreng internet lang may communication na pero saan nagkakaproblema? Kapag umuwi sila dito, kakain ang pamilya nang sabay-sabay pero hindi na sila nag-uusap kasi kaharap ang kaniya-kaniyang telepono (As long as there’s free internet you can stay connected but where does the problem arise? When they go home here [in the Philippines], they’ll eat together but they don’t speak with each other because they’re busy using their phones) and that disconnects people,” he said.
“So, what am I trying to say here? Let’s go back to the basics. Ang basic unit pa rin ng community ay ang family at kailangang mag-usap-usap kayo (family is still the community’s basic unit and its members must speak with each other,” he added.
Meanwhile, Cel Gonzales, quality control director of One Algon Place, a rehabilitation center for those with drug and alcohol addiction, said that technology gave rise to internet and gaming addiction which affects the mental health of the youth.
“In 2008, we started treating teen gaming addiction, and not many people understand it because it seemed like a new concept. We first had a 17-year-old who got treated from addiction behavior, since then every year, we receive 14-year-old patients in our facility,” Gonzales said.
Citing that online gaming conferences usually happen during the “ber months”, Gonzales added most teenage students stop going to school as early as September.
“The youngest we had was an 11 year old, na itinali na ng barangay staff maipasok lang sa facility dahil nananakit na siya ng mga kapamilya at nag-withdraw na sa (who the barangay staff had tied up so he can be brought to the facility, and because he’s already hurting family members physically and he has withdrawn from) school,” she said.
Through the mental health law, Argamosa said problems brought about by misuse of social media and technology can be addressed appropriately.
“The law, while it’s broad because it has many thrusts, strengthens the advocacy in what we call the big three — the community, the workplace and the school. Programs are created in coordination with the private sector to address bullying issues in the school and in the community, stress in the workplace, etc.,“ he added.
Gerardo Rudin Gonzales III, executive director of One Algon Place, said the law also allows allied health professionals to help in improving the mental health of Filipinos.
“So, it involves not just psychiatry, there’s allied health and we can help schools create a program for mental health, also the offices. For example, we help employees who are positive in random drug test, they will enter our facility for rehabilitation, and in schools, on the other hand, we work hand in hand with guidance counselors,” he added. (PNA)