Silakbo Raises Mental Health Awareness Through Self-Expression
In the Philippines, mental health is a necessary yet often overlooked public health concern. Up until today, the lack of a mental health law combined with the painful public stigma makes it difficult for an individual living with a mental illness get the support and intervention that they need. Despite this, more and more initiatives are gradually helping in changing how we approach mental health in the Philippines. Silakbo is a growing online platform that aims to raise mental health awareness through the help of art.
Raising awareness through art
“The idea came to me because many of the mainstream initiatives at awareness make me feel, ‘ok, it exists’ but don’t seem to cultivate a deeper understanding of what people really feel. I know many people who cope via creative means, and I thought, maybe I could channel that: feature their art and give them a place to raise awareness in one place,” said founder Rissa Coronel.
On a personal level, Rissa started Silakbo as a way to marry her love for art and passion for mental health advocacy. Silakbo first went live last June 2016 as Subjunctive Mood Swings, but Rissa decided to change the blog’s name to Silakbo with the help of members of local online communities such as Alab, and Anxiety and Depression Support Philippines.
Silakbo aims to help define an individual’s mental health through his or her own terms, help others understand their experiences with mental health through creative self-expression, and fight the stigma towards mental illnesses.
I will stop considering my situation as "hopeless". I'm not gonna get better if I don't do anything about it. #MentalHealthResolutions
— Silakbo PH (@SilakboPH) December 31, 2016
In a short span of time, Silakbo has gradually grown into a space and resource for mental health awareness and support. “I initially wanted it to be for the Filipino youth, but it gives me hope that I’ve been getting contributions from people I don’t know as well as foreigners. Also, people have been reacting positively to [and] engaging in the Twitter account I made, so I guess an additional goal is a discourse with Silakbo’s readers,” Rissa explained.
Silakbo has also become a channel of inspiration, solidarity, hope, and strength for individuals who have varying degrees of experience with mental illnesses.
Moving forward, Rissa hopes that Silakbo would provide a holistic understanding of the individual through the retelling of his or her own stories. She also hopes that mental health should be a concern for everyone and not just for the mentally ill. Taking a cue from one of her psychology professors, Rissa also aspires that art can be integral in subverting traditional narratives on mental health.
Much to accomplish
Even though there are more initiatives now on improving mental health awareness and treatment in the Philippines, there is still a lot to accomplish. “There is so much work to do. People look down on those with mental health problems. Outside safe spaces, people use otis and abnoy as slurs. People invalidate others’ feelings all the time. Doesn’t stop me from trying in my corner of the internet, though,” Rissa explained.
Looking at a bigger picture, Rissa wishes to enlighten the public regarding mental health that mental health is just as important as physical health, and that advice-giving can be counter-intuitive sometimes. “The safest way, I think, is to let them unload—just listen and be there for them,” Rissa explained.
Changing the narrative
@SilakboPH Think good = feel good = do good. Focus on changing your thoughts, which then improves your emotions and behavior!
— Steph Arnaldo (@stefizzzle) December 30, 2016
As parting words, Rissa Coronel shared a comforting message: “Your feelings are always valid, your need to process them is valid. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
Even though mental health remains to be an overlooked issue in the Philippines, outlets such as Silakbo are slowly changing the mental health narrative in our country. Through art, individuals with varying experiences on mental health issues can express themselves and provide a space for empathy and understanding for everyone.