Family is the basic unit of society. It is important that a family have healthy dynamics, communication, and tender loving care in order to make sure they will be functional and contribute to the community they are part of. But what happens when one member of the family starts having a mental health concern?
Why is this a concern?
In the qualitative study by Martinez et al., (2020), they found that both respondents of their study that Filipinos who work overseas and those who live in Philippines were in a barrier due to self and social stigma attached to mental disorder and all the while having a concern for loss of face, sense of shame and the adherence to asian values of conforming to norms where having mental illness is frowned upon. With 6 million Filipinos experiencing depression and/or anxiety, this placed the Philippines in the third highest rate of mental health problems around the Western Pacific Region (WHO, 2017). Filipinos usually do a lot of resistance and have a negative attitude towards seeking help in mental health professionals despite facing issues that cause psychological distress to them and would rather confide in their close family and friends, before reaching out to professionals (Sanchez & Gaw, 2007; Martinez et al., 2020).
Where does the family enter in this problem?
Filipinos are known to be collectivists. There will be chances that their personal preferences will be overshadowed by group choices they belonged to. They usually identify with their affiliations in religion, friends and colleagues, and lastly, to their family (Sanchez & Gaw, 2007). It has good effects on mental health and to their self-value but sometimes, if one’s concept of self is persistently subdued, this is where it gets concerning. In Philippines, depression and anxiety is one of the most stigmatized mental illnesses and usually believed by people that this doesn’t exist and should be ashamed of. This stigma is thought to be a result of different themes on how the general public perceive mental illnesses; one of them is the familial issues, in which the family rejects or disowns the family member who has a mental disorder because they think it can be inherited (Tanaka et al., 2018).
According to Supan and co-researchers (2014), due to the stigma attached to mental health issues, many Filipinos only use mental health services as a last resort and at lower rates. In addition to this, to prevent bringing shame upon the family, they are urged to keep family issues private (Javier et al., 2018; Thompson et al., 2002). In support of this, an individual’s problem regarding their mental health is considered as a family’s sickness and like the past literatures, it is linked with shame and stigma. Some Filipinos would go for online counseling and face-to-face counseling due to the anonymity it offers and that lessens the effects of “hiya” (Hechanova et al., 2011).
Abegail Joyce Requilman, a clinical psychologist, discussed the problems with the Filipino family culture. One of which is how when there’s a conflict between family members, it will be as if nothing happened then will only resurface when another conflict comes up which tolerates mistakes and toxicity. Also, the tendency to compare siblings and/or cousins to each other which would make the other feel insufficient or as if their value is unimportant. Mental health concerns were also belittled and minimized by other family members, making it a trouble for some to ask help from others (Arnaldo, 2023).
How can we resolve this?
These were some of the tips given by Lefley and Jacobs, PSyD, director of behavioral sciences at the Springfield, PA and author of The Emotional Survival Guide for Caregivers for an effective guidance and support to our loved ones (Tartakovsky, 2016):
Educate yourself about your family member’s mental illness. Understand where they are coming from and know what support you could offer them. You may read books or publications that discuss their issue. If they are in the treatment already, be aware of their system, confidentiality and how you can be of help. If not, motivate them to seek professional help and remind them that they are in control of their bodies and an active participant in their treatment.
Encourage and be pleasant with them. Be patient and understanding, avoid responding in an angry manner. Recognize their courage in their battle with the symptoms they experience while seeking or staying in recovery. Also, listen to them intently and make sure to not judge them or push them too much. Just be there for them and note that they will come to you once they are ready. Set realistic expectations and don’t just assume that they are cured once the treatment, hospitalization, or consultations are done. Healing and recovery has different progressions in each person and/or illnesses.
It’s normal to feel shame and guilt. Some family members may wish they got the help for their loved one sooner or they could’ve been the one that caused the disorder–but remember that most of the mental disorders can be affected by various aspects such as genetics, biology, and/or socio-cultural. Accept this feeling and realize that you are here now for them and ready to get them any help they would need.
Seeking help from professionals does not necessarily only entail for those who have mental disorders and this is something we need to clear–may it be your sleeping problem, concerns with your academic or work tasks, and even just making hard decisions–it’s all normal and valid. You can ask help for this and mental health professionals offer different solutions to this, guidance that can lead you to betterment of your well-being. Lastly, being a family means being in support and showing care to your other family members. If you or anyone you know are experiencing problems with their mental health, there’s hope and professional help exists.
We, at Fidecita, care about your well-being. Click here to know more about Fidecita’s Mental Health Care services.
Arnaldo, A. (2023). ‘Utang na loob?’ Filipino family values gone wrong, and how they affect mental health, https://www.rappler.com/life-and-style/relationships/filipino-family-values-gone-wrong/
Hechanova, M. R. M., Tuliao, A. P., & Ang, P. H. (2011). If you build it, will they come? Prospects and challenges in online ccounseling for overseas migrant workers. Media Asia, 38(1), 32–40.
Javier JR, Galura K, Aliganga FAP, Supan J, Palinkas LA. (2018). Voices of the Filipino Community Describing the Importance of Family in Understanding Adolescent Behavioral Health Needs. Fam Community Health. 41(1):64-71. PMID: 29135796.
Martinez, A. B., Co, M., Lau, J., & Brown, J. S. L. (2020). Filipino help-seeking for mental health problems and associated barriers and facilitators: a systematic review. Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology, 55(11), 1397–1413. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-020-01937-2
Sanchez, F., & Gaw, A. (2007). Mental health care of Filipino Americans. Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.), 58(6), 810–815. https://doi.org/10.1176/ps.2007.58.6.810
Supan J, Lansang A, Beyer W, Kubicek K, Palinkas LA. Preventing Filipino Mental Health Disparities: Perspectives from adolescents, caregivers, providers, and advocates. Asian American Journal of Psychology. 2014;5(4):316-324.PMID: 25667725
Tanaka, C., Tuliao, M., Tanaka, E., Yamashita, T., and Matsuo, H. (2018). A qualitative study on the stigma experienced by people with mental health problems and epilepsy in the Philippines. BMC Psychiatry 18:325. doi: 10.1186/s12888-018-1902-9
Tartakovsky, M. (2016). How to Help a Loved One With Mental Illness, https://psychcentral.com/lib/15-ways-to-support-a-loved-one-with-serious-mental-illness#1
Thompson, S., Manderson, L., Woelz-Stirling, N., Cahill, A., & Kelaher, M. (2002). The social and cultural context of the mental health of Filipinas in Queensland. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 36, 681–687. doi:10.1046/j.1440-1614.2002.01071.x
WHO (2017) Mental health atlas 2017. World Health Organization