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OFWs suffering from depression alarm online OFW group

09 December 2019

By The SUN
 
OFWs suffering from depression may message DWC's Facebook page to get help

It’s SAD season again, meaning there is an increase in the number of people, particularly overseas Filipino workers, who are getting depressed.

SAD, which means  “seasonal affective disorder,” is a phenomenon that often occurs at the onset of autumn and lasts through the winter, before dissipating around springtime.

It occurs repetitively, and has been seen by officers at the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration over the years as the time when cases of Filipino migrant domestic workers getting mentally ill or suicidal show a noticeable spike.

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This year is no different. Last September, two OFWs jumped to their deaths just two days apart. Last month, two others hanged themselves in a span of 10 days.

The causes may differ in each case, with money and relationship problems cited as the main reasons, but what is true for all is that a worker gets to a point when she sees killing herself as the only way out.
DWC's Rodelia Villar started a group for OFWs suffering depression

In all the suicide cases reported this year, not one is known to have sought help from a doctor, counselor, non-government organization or the Consulate. At least two showed no signs of being depressed, and were known to be sociable.

But that could just be the tip of the iceberg in terms of the number of Filipino migrant workers suffering from mental health problems.
Latest OWWA statistics show that for the first three quarters of the year, 14 psychiatric cases have already been reported to their office. For the entire 2018, there were 22 similar cases.

The number of unreported cases could be even more.

Alarmed by the recent suicides, in which family members of the victims in at least two of the cases had sought their help, administrators of the online group, Domestic Workers Corner, decided to form a secret group for those suffering from depression.

Within a day, 20 Filipino migrant workers had already asked to be included, with many of them reportedly on the verge of snapping.

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“Twenty pa lang ang members pero ang mga stories, grabe. Madami ang gustong wakasan na ang kanilang buhay,” said DWC founder and co-administrator Rodelia P. Villar.

She said DWC does not hold itself out as an expert in solving the workers’ problems, but its administrators are always ready to lend an ear to anyone who just wants to unburden or share her grief with someone.

Welfare attache Beth Dy
gives counseling at the Consulate
If the case sounds serious, or the worker starts talking of suicide, DWC immediately refers the case to Social Welfare Attache Elizabeth Dy who, along with another trained counselor, provides counseling service at the Consulate.

Another officer the group passes cases on to is Welfare Officer Marivic C. Clarin of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, which can immediately refer the worker to a local hospital, and extend help in contacting her family members.

Villar said that when she hears from someone who is suicidal, she immediately gets her complete name and mobile phone number and passes them on to OWWA or the Department of Social Welfare and Development office so help is extended without delay.



If the worker just needs to vent, Villar said her group would still ask what was causing her anxiety so it would be easier to determine if she needs to be referred to a trained specialist, and which agency is best suited to give help.
 
Welfare officer Clarin
Luckily, she said help is also extended by some workers who have themselves gone through a depressive phase, and are eager to guide a fellow worker on how to get over a hump.

But Villar realizes chatting online can only do so much in helping a distressed migrant. Also, not being trained counselor themselves, they are anxious to know how best to respond to workers who reach out to them, and show signs of needing immediate help.

So starting in September this year, Villar started discussing the possibility of holding a workshop for her group’s administrators and other Filipino community leaders on how to extend help to fellow migrant workers who are going through depression.

“Kaya lang hindi pa matuloy dahil sa patuloy na protesta sa Hong Kong ngayon. Mahirap mag-schedule ng araw na makakapunta ang marami” she said. But she hopes that by the first quarter of next year at the latest, the workshop that she is pushing for, would finally happen.

In the meantime, she advises those suffering from anxiety, depression, sleepless nights or are having suicidal thoughts to seek help directly. They can either go to the DSWD office at the Consulate in Admiralty, or the OWWA office at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Wanchai.

Other groups that can also extend professional help immediately are non-government  organizations like the Mission for Migrant Workers or Help for Domestic Workers, which both refer patients to the St. John’s Counseling Service.

For emergency cases, or when depression sets in during the night, the patient may call The Samaritans, which runs a 24-hour multilingual suicide prevention hotline at 2896 0000. Emails can also be sent to jo@samaritans.org.hk.

What are the signs that you may be suffering from SAD or depression? Here are some of them:
  • a persistent low mood
  • a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
  • feeling irritable
  • feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
  • low self-esteem
  • tearfulness
  • feeling stressed or anxious
  • reduced sex drive
  • becoming less sociable
  • inability to concentrate on tasks
  • feeling lethargic or lazy
  • lack of appetite, or conversely, an inordinate increase in appetite
  • inability to sleep.

In some cases, the sufferer will experience these symptoms on and off, and in between, could have so called “manic” periods when they feel happy, energetic and much more sociable.

The nature and severity of depression varies from person to person. In severe cases, it is best to seek help from a psychiatric doctor or counselor immediately.
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