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Depression rate could be high among OFWs - group

October 2, 2008 5:52pm
MANILA, Philippines - A group on Thursday stressed the need for public awareness of depression as it warned that many Filipinos, especially those working overseas, are vulnerable to the mental disorder.

In a press statement, the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation (NGF), an institution dedicated to fighting depression, said the disorder affects as many as eight million Filipinos.

“It’s time to fight depression," said the foundation, which was organized over a year ago by noted fashion and textile designer Jeannie Goulbourn along with some colleagues and friends in memory of her daughter Natasha, who died in 2002 as a result of depression.

“There are many ‘walking wounded’ or people who unknowingly suffer from depression and overseas Filipino workers (OFW) are among the ones most likely to suffer from it owing to physical, mental and emotional challenges that living and working abroad bring," Goulborn, who chairs the foundation, was quoted by the statement as saying.

The NGF said the “high anecdotal rate of depression incidence" has made suicide a consequence of depression among Filipinos, especially those working abroad.

In Lebanon alone, almost five female migrant domestic workers die monthly mostly through suicide by hanging or due to falling from high buildings.

The Department of Foreign Affairs’ “Proposed Psychiatric Examination for Household Service Workers" (HSW) said that from 2006 to 2007, 178 mental cases were recorded involving Filipino domestics sent to Middle Eastern countries.

In the Philippines, at least three percent of the population is medically diagnosed as being depressed. But this refers only to those who see a doctor, or just a third of the total number of depressed people, said the foundation.

According to data from the World Health Organization, depression is a common occurrence, with about 121 million people around the world suffering from the disorder.

Depression is characterized by pervasive sadness, which can significantly interfere with a person’s normal behavior, thoughts and physical health.

It can affect how a person feels about himself or herself and the way he or she thinks about things. It also causes people to lose interest in and pleasure from daily life and could sometimes be a cause for suicide, said the foundation.

It said some people cannot bear the effects of the disease and 15 percent of depressed people commit suicide, according to a study done by the United States National Institute of Mental Health.

However, the foundation said that the disorder can be treated and prevented.

“It is really important that we educate the public about its true nature and offer hope to those who suffer its pains and torment," it said.

“Informing the public as much about depression as possible is the very first step, perhaps the most important one, in managing the condition and if you take that step, a large part of the battle would have been won," said Dr. Ricardo Soler, NGF director.

As a step in that direction, the foundation will hold its first overseas symposium for OFWs on October 26 in Hong Kong, where almost 150,000 Filipinos work primarily as domestic helpers.

To speak about the disorder are Dr. Cornelio Banaag, chair of the Medical City hospital’s Department of Psychiatry and professor emeritus of psychiatry at the University of the Philippines and leading Filipino clinical psychologist and UP professor Dr. Honey Carandang.

“Hopefully, the symposium will increase their level of awareness so they would seek professional help," Goulbourn said in the statement.

The Foundation holds information and educational symposia and distributes comprehensive information packages on depression. These packets are addressed to those who suffer from it, family and friends affected by it, and the general public.

Last September 23 to 25, the foundation sponsored the Spiegel Lectures, a series of seminars in Cebu and Metro Manila with prominent American psychiatrist David Spiegel lecturing on the topics Mind and Body Medicine and Stress in Health and Illness. – Kimberly Jane Tan, GMANews.TV
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