Mental health is the third most common disability in the country, with about 6 million Filipinos living with depression and/or anxiety, according to WHO. Lack of data fails to present an accurate and complete picture of the status of mental health in the Philippines today, but previous studies by WHO, the Philippine Statistics Office and other bodies indicate mental health is a serious – and growing – concern.
As the pandemic continues to unsettle the country, constricting the economy, causing deaths and job losses, disrupting education and work, and painting an even more uncertain future for Filipinos, the number of people with anxiety and other similar mental health concerns is estimated to have risen further. The National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) reported a marked increase in calls received during the pandemic than before, with the monthly average from March to May last year more than double the monthly average from May 2019 to February 2020 or before the pandemic. Calls received by the NCMH related to suicide likewise spiked.
The upcoming 27th National Public Relations Congress, an annual gathering of communication practitioners from across the different industries and sectors of society, will tackle this pressing matter this February 17 to 19. Mental health in the workplace, in particular, will be a hot topic scheduled for the third day, which will be dedicated to deep diving into narratives punctuating many of today’s business actions and discussions, especially on social media, such as the environment, equality, diversity, and leadership.
Jane Fordham, a strategic people consultant with two decades of experience in agencies and the creative industries, will share her insights on how to ensure mental health in the workplace, noting how the PR industry is often perceived as very stressful. The discussion will try to look into ways of detecting mental health needs among office and work team members, how organizations and businesses can create an atmosphere of positivity and collaboration in the workplace, and what measures or programs should be in place to assist team members with mental health needs.
Themed Transcend, the 27th National PR Congress hopes to enjoin communication practitioners to work more closely together to contribute to addressing social issues and make a lasting impact on the nation in line with PRSP’s 2020 theme of PR for Good. The annual conference will likewise explore the outlook for the PR industry as it rebounds from the setbacks resulting from the pandemic and gears up for the challenges and opportunities in this new decade.
PRSP President Norman Agatep, APR, said: “As we revisit our business plans and strategies for this new year and decade, we must also look into how we can better work with the society to address concerns that impact not just businesses and the economy but the whole nation. That is part of our commitment as the industry storytellers.”
Ana Pista, PRSP vice president for external affairs and Congress chair, added: “As in previous congresses, we want this annual conference to be a platform for meaningful discussions and exploring solutions to our problems as an industry and nation. Mental health is a serious matter, one of many issues we need to prioritize, and we hope that through the Congress we can help start the discussion on how to ensure we have the right programs in place for our people.”