Responsive Ad Slot




Buhay Pinay



Philippine News

Join us at Facebook!

Workshop tackles depression, anxiety among migrant workers

14 December 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao 

Alegre tells participants they shouldn't live in the past so they don't get depressed

Filipina domestic workers suffering from various types of cancer and anxiety shared their experiences on Sunday, Dec 12, during a workshop on coping with stress and depression that a migrant workers’ group organized.

The “Mental Health Talk and Workshop” was held by Social Justice for Migrant Workers at Sai Ying Pun Space to address one of the most pressing problems of the foreign domestic helper community in Hong Kong.

Brenda Alegre, a lecturer in gender studies at the University of Hong Kong, spoke on how the workers can cope with depression and anxiety in their workplace.


“If you are depressed, you live in the past; if you’re not, you live in the future,” Alegre told the workshop participants who included cancer patients who are either out of work and undergoing treatment, dismissed new workers, and old-timers."

 She said if they are depressed, they must speak to friends and other people who can lead them out of their depression and help them overcome their fear, dread, and uneasiness.

Devi Novianti, an officer of Equal Opportunities Commission, tackled the protection that migrant domestic workers who are sick or suffering from physical or mental disabilities get under Hong Kong laws.


The last speaker, Welfare Officer Virsie B. Tamayao from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration Hong Kong, said OWWA is willing to help Social Justice empower fellow migrant workers so that they in turn can reach others who are suffering from depression.

In between the arrival of the resource speakers, some of the 40 participants shared their experiences as cancer patients, moving the audience to tears.

Marites Palma, Social Justice founder and fellow of Resolve Hong Kong Foundation, an NGO that seeks to empower migrant domestic workers, said the 15 who attended were from peer support groups and 25 were new attendees.


Elva Caneko, who arrived in Hong Kong on Sept 24 last year, tearfully narrated how, just three months into her employment with a family in Yuen Long, she developed breast cancer.

She believes she got it from being kicked in the chest by her young ward who didn’t like her. Three months after the boy had kicked her, she said she felt intense pain in her breast and a small bump developed, which turned out to be cancerous.

She said she had wanted to go home but was fazed by the thought of paying for the high cost of treatment at home. She decided on a surgery here to remove the cancerous lump.


Okay naman sa akin, tapos na akong magpaopera, natanggal na yung bukol sa breast ko. Yung chemo na lang, sana tuluy-tuloy na ang paggaling ko para makapagtrabaho na ako,” Elva said. (I now feel OK after the surgery. The bump on my breast has been removed. It’s just the chemotherapy that I need now. I hope I recover steadily so that I can work again.)  

While she still has an employer on record, Caneko says she is not allowed to work anymore.

Palma says her group is helping Elva with her transportation expenses when she has to go to the hospital for treatment. The money comes from funds donated to the group by kindhearted individuals.

Palma says her group helps pay for some of the expenses of the cancer patients

Another domestic helper, Lilibeth Seraspe, says she suspects she has ovarian cancer after she bled profusely for three months, and only managed to gather enough courage to tell her employer about it recently.

The employer told her to go for a checkup in a hospital and, after several laboratory tests, Lilibeth was admitted for two days. The doctor reportedly asked her if she was willing to go under the knife.

"Siguro may nakitang problema sa ovary ko,” Lilibeth said. She was told to return on Dec 31 for an ultrasound examination.

Pindutin para sa detalye

She suspects she became stressed herself from comforting a cancer-stricken friend who left Hong Kong this year.

Another sharer of experience was Jeanette Coloma, a migrant worker who holds a degree in engineering. She said she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder for 16 years after her husband left her, but was not aware of it.

She only learned about her illness from her psychologist in Manila, who called her in March this year about her ex-husband filing for annulment.

Jeanette said she would blow up over trivial things that everyone in her family eventually disowned her. As she had a young daughter to support, she came to Hong Kong 12 years ago to work as a domestic helper.

She said she got over her mental condition by talking to psychologists and praying to God. She advised fellow workers like her to talk to God and speak to shrinks about their problems, as that will lead to their healing.

Palma said while the workshop was under way, the participants and group members also got free breast-cancer examination from the Hong Kong Breast Cancer Foundation.


Don't Miss