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Yves Miel H. Zuñiga, FRSPH, AFCHSM, CHM, CPH

By Yves Miel H. Zuñiga, FRSPH, AFCHSM, CHM, CPH

Of grief and languishing: COVID-19 in the eyes of a person with lived experience

Trigger warning: This podcast discusses content about depression and other mental health conditions. If you feel you need support with your mental health, please ensure you seek the appropriate help from your local health care facility, a local community group that specializes in mental health, or if available, a national crisis hotline or helpline. 

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In my previous article, I highlighted how challenges in the Philippine health system, particularly on mental health, can transcend across the levels of self, society, and system, which was richly discussed using the 3S and 3Os Framework. Applying this principle, how do these challenges across different levels contribute to pandemic grief and languishing? 

In this podcast, I had the opportunity to converse with Lawrence, one of the co-founders of MentalHealthPH, Inc. and a person with lived experience. With her journey as a young Filipino diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder, Lawrence gave us a peek at how persons with lived experience like her are affected by the COVID-19 especially with pandemic grief and languishing.

"Grieving felt like losing someone and this time, losing the life you used to have."

Podcast/interview with Lawrence dela Fuente, a person with lived experience in the Philippines
Lawrence emphasized how COVID-19 posed several challenges for young Filipinos diagnosed with mental health conditions. These include averted access to essential prescription medicines, limited access to professional help, and even restricted capacity to avail of other government-subsidized health services such as COVID-19 vaccination. Despite these “pain points,” she remains hopeful that actions can be done across the levels of self, society, and system. At an individual capacity, she noted the importance of raising awareness on mental health to deepen understanding of different faces of mental illnesses and how much of the population have become vulnerable to these due to COVID-19. She also mentioned that society has a vital role in fostering safe spaces and making people with lived experiences feel not alone in their struggle. She underscored how government support could alleviate the burden faced by persons with lived experience at a system level.

"Without government support on mental health services, my happiness and sanity would cost so much."

What we can do

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There are helpful ways to support people with lived experience amid this pandemic:

  1. Regularly check in on them and be there (whether physically or virtually) when they need a helping hand, a listening ear, or a crying shoulder.
  2. Cultivate a safe space for them and normalize conversations around mental health and mental health conditions to reduce the stigma around them.
  3. Advocate for more efficient implementation of government policies and programs to support people with lived experience.

Finally, mental health services are essential humanitarian needs; thus, they also need to be at the front and center of any country’s COVID-19 response.

Tune in on the podcast below for the full interview where Lawrence and I tackled, on a more personal note, grief and languishing during this COVID-19. We thank Lawrence for her courage in sharing her inspiring story.

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