“How do I know if I’m just sad or if I’m depressed?” That’s one of the most common questions people ask about their mental health.
Sadness is a common human emotion—everybody experiences it. It’s a natural reaction to upsetting or painful situations we encounter in life. It’s temporary. “Pain and suffering is not a problem in itself. It’s a fact of human experience,” said Dr. Anna Cristina Tuazon, licensed clinical psychologist, clinical supervisor for UP Diliman PsycServ and one of the experts featured in Globe’s #StartANewDay series. “It’s actually a misconception that to be well means to be happy all the time, to be problem-free. We need to be able to adapt and be flexible, tolerate ambiguity and uncertainty, tolerate frustration and distress and be able to express a wide range of emotions.”
Some people use the word depressed lightly—as in, “Ugh, my favorite series just ended, I’m so depressed!”—but depression, clinical depression, is a different thing entirely.
Clinical depression is a mental illness that, depending on its severity, can be debilitating. It can affect the different facets of one’s life. But the good thing is it can be treated.
Prolonged sadness is one of the symptoms of depression. Other symptoms include changes in appetite, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, loss of energy, loss of interest in things that used to give one pleasure, among others.
So how do you know if you’re sad or if you’re depressed? The first step is self-awareness. Tuazon said, “Are you still okay? Okay ka pa ba?” This doesn’t mean diagnosing yourself, it means knowing yourself well enough to understand what you’re feeling.
According to psychiatrist Dr. Angela Cuadro, another expert featured in Globe’s #StartANewDay webinar series, “We work towards awareness.
Allocate time to learn about how you experience depressive and anxiety symptoms. Where do you feel it in your body? How does it talk to you in your thoughts? How does it urge you to behave? And this is, in a way, part of health education, in the same way that in this pandemic we try to learn about flu-like symptoms.”
Tuazon said that it’s important to note “a significant change from baseline.” “Observation matters.”
The thing to realize is depression doesn’t always manifest as sadness. In my case, it was more of a numbness, a really hollow, heavy feeling that was so bad I started wishing I could feel anything, even sadness.
It helped that I knew myself very well and knew that this wasn’t a feeling I had ever felt before. I kept waiting for it to go away and when it didn’t, I knew I needed to get help.
Many ways to get help
The beautiful thing about living at a time when the world is finally becoming more open about discussing mental health is that there are so many ways to get help.
You can arm yourself with knowledge from free webinars just like Globe’s #StartANewDay webinar series that it started running in partnership with the Inquirer during the pandemic. Globe has been an advocate of mental health since 2012 and it created #StartANewDay out of the desire to provide safe spaces for Filipinos to hear about and discuss mental health. During the webinars, viewers from all over the Philippines and even different parts of the world can ask experts questions about their mental health—like, how can I help loved ones who are struggling? Where can I get help? And yes, what’s the difference between sad and depressed?
Those who need one-on-one counseling can call the 24/7 support line, Hopeline 2919, which is a partnership between Globe and NGF Mindstrong.
According to NGF Mindstrong founder Jean Goulbourn, people call Hopeline for a variety of reasons. “In 2019, the top reasons for calling were relationships problems, family problems and domestic violence, depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety and despair, stress, gender issue, and job loss.” She added that there are also those who call just to inquire or to ask for a referral.
Globe also has the 24/7 telehealth hotline KonsultaMD where licensed Filipino doctors can provide you with mental health support and primary healthcare. Globe also partnered with UP Diliman Psychosocial Services. These licensed psychologists and psychosocial support specialists can give psychological first aid, counselling and psychotherapy through teleconsultation.
Need a boost? Join Hope Bank, an online community that Globe created for anyone trying to cope with the emotional and mental challenges.
“People are always seeking support. Where do we go? So we want to shed light on the challenges and point them in the right direction,” said Yoly C. Crisanto, Globe Telecom’s Corporate Communications head.
He added, “One of the challenges in our culture is that Filipinos in general may not be as expressive or as forward with their concerns. We’ve had conversations with some of the volunteers and one insight popped up: when you say, ‘May sakit ako,’ the word sakit is always associated with physical pain. There’s not a lot of Tagalog words you can use this to distinguish your pains that are mental health-related other than maybe hugot, which is a recent term. It’s hard for people to shift and start talking about their mental health challenges. For mental health, there is that part of our culture that says, figure it out. That’s what we want to shed light on. Whatever you’re going through, including your mental health challenges, there are ways to seek help. It’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with talking about your mental health. We do it in our webinars and our panel discussions. And it’s also completely okay to seek help.”
Globe wants to make sure everyone has access to help, whether they have money to spend or not. “We understand that talking to psychologists can cost a lot of money. Imagine the kind of insights you get from that professional help… We want to get to extend those breakthroughs to people who cannot afford it and to make it available for everyone.”
‘Don’t be ashamed’
If you feel that you need help, don’t wait. Think of seeing a mental health professional as any other doctor’s visit. Just go for a check-up. A check-up doesn’t necessarily mean a diagnosis. Tuazon said, “I really want to clarify that mental health is not just about illness, disorders and diagnoses. Mental health is health—and health is not just the absence of illness.”
Tuazon said that when it comes to seeking professional help, “The earlier the better. I’d rather that they go to me before a crisis. It’s so much easier and faster. I’ve had kids who I just meet for a couple of sessions, just some booster sessions just to check if things are okay. It’s never too early. A professional can actually assure you that it’s not too bad. Na ‘Okay, kaya ko pa pala.’ We are not invested in trying to find a problem. I’m so happy when I can tell someone, ‘Actually, you know what, you’re okay.’ You don’t need a disorder or a diagnosis in order to get help.”
And if you’re worried about seeing a professional because you don’t know what to expect, Tuazon said, “A session is really just a conversation… It can be a little bit strange to talk to a stranger about personal and intimate details. By the way, for some of my clients, they feel like they’re on a talk show and they’re always the guest. There’s a safe, kind of luxurious experience to it because one, I’m legally not allowed to share (anything you tell me). With children, I introduce myself as a professional secret keeper. It’s really just a conversation.”
She adds, “I don’t diagnose right away. In fact, I ask them, do you even need a diagnosis? Because you know, I can help you without even putting a label to things.”
One thing Tuazon always tells her clients is “to put things in their proper places.” “Is this a housemate problem? Is this a communication problem? Is this a situation I need to accept or do I need to generate more solutions or ideas for this? In therapy, you can get all these things organized and clarified for you and hopefully to generate new ideas and new solutions that you on your own might not be able to come up with. We don’t bite.”
Mental health advocate Manong Ari Verzosa said, “It’s just like any other disease. Don’t be ashamed. Seek help.“
#MentalHealthPH co-founder Roy Dahildahil said, “Self-care is not selfish. What you’re feeling is valid and know that there’s always help.”
Globe still has #StartANewDay webinars planned during the pandemic and beyond. Reach Hopeline 2919 by calling 2919 using Globe/TM. Text or viber UPD PsycServ at 0906-374-3466 or 0916-757-3157. Call the National Center for Mental Health at 0917-899-USAP (8727) or 0917-989-USAP (8727). Get in touch with the Philippine Mental Health Association’s Clinical and Intervention Services Department at 0917-565-2036. For basic counseling from KonsultaMD, call 79880 on mobile or (02)7798-8000 on landline (toll-free for Globe/TM).