As a kid, when we stumble and find a cut on our knee, we immediately run to a parent. As a teen, when we find our skin problematic, we consult with a dermatologist. Even as an adult, when we get a toothache, we have a dentist on speed dial.
However, when we struggle with internal pain, which is often invisible yet pervasive, many of us still hesitate to ask for help. We still do not recognize that mental health is as equally important as physical health. Unfortunately, this disparity has taken many shapes and forms including one that’s immensely prevalent—stigma.
Stigma is defined by the World Health Organization as “a mark of shame, disgrace, or disapproval, which results in an individual being rejected, discriminated against, and excluded from participating in a number of different areas of society.” We see this translated in the Filipino value of hiya. L.P. Alampay (2014) explains hiya as familial shame, wherein the expectation is to behave with propriety and dignity with respect to the self and the family.
In recent years, we’ve seen growth in awareness of mental health and the need for treatment. Despite this progress, the majority still find it difficult to acknowledge their issues, let alone seek help for them. Fundamental lack of understanding, as well as access to assessment and treatment, and expectations of prejudice and discrimination against people who have a diagnosis all exacerbate barriers to mental health care. Most end up suffering in silence, especially during the pandemic.
It is for this reason that BYS Philippines has decided to step up its efforts in mental health awareness. The brand has always supported the agenda in the Philippines, not just through donations but also by lending its voice in the form of campaigns. This year, on its ninth anniversary in the country, the brand is bent on cementing its commitment to mental health advocacy.
“BYS, for those who don’t know, stands for Be Yourself. But it’s really hard to Be Yourself if and when you don’t love yourself or when your current self is going through something extremely difficult. It’s hard if you can’t break the stigma of acknowledging your internal pain and seeking help, and most importantly judging ourselves and others for not having a perfect mental health state,” shares Angie Goyena, President of iFace, Inc.
BYS Philippines believes that challenging the negative societal perceptions of mental disorders requires education and empathy. The brand has sought help from its different partners—the Mindfulness, Love, and Compassion Institute for Psychosocial Services Inc. lead by Dr. Honey Carandang, licensed psychologist Gisa Paredes of Healing Minds, and the creative team of Where To Next—to be able to navigate mental health soundly and responsibly, alongside determining what concrete and relevant support it can offer.
Break Your Stigma was born. To help break the barriers that deter people from acknowledging their mental health condition and seeking help, BYS Philippines is launching a digital platform dedicated to helping Filipinos gain access to a directory of mental health professionals they can connect with and other resources that can empower them to take control of their own healing. Through the website, it is the brand’s fervent hope that we all learn new ways to be kinder to ourselves and to one another.
“We should normalize talking about mental health the way we talk about skin care. It’s okay for your skin and your mental health to not be perfect. And to seek help for both. It’s as perfectly acceptable to have a psychiatrist as it is to have a dermatologist. If you don’t feel guilty when your skin or makeup isn’t flawless, you shouldn’t feel guilty when your mental health isn’t either,” Angie explains.
The path to healing looks different for everyone, but you don’t have to go through it alone. Showing up today is already a huge step. Together, we can work to break the stigma surrounding the issues many of us face. We don’t know whose life we can save simply by sharing the website with others.