A college student and musician from Laguna has inspired people to become more understanding of Filipinos who have mental health issues.
Afrelle Rose Aquino, 21, wrote in a lengthy online post last week that a lot of people don’t believe her when she says she has manic depression and bipolar disorder. These people even “laugh” at her when she says she is a member of the persons with disability (PWD) community.
“I don’t know who taught you that PWDs are only the blind, mute, and deaf. That PWDs are not functional, that if you are depressed, you are just quiet,” she wrote in English and Filipino.
“I don’t know where the idea that those who are depressed are crazy, that depressed [people] are not normal. I don’t understand where you saw or read that those who have tattoos [and] piercings are strong and brave. I don’t understand what sort of mindset you have. You’re probably the ones who are blind, deaf, and mute to the things happening around you,” she added in her post, which has been shared almost 62,000 times.
She explained that a PWD is a person with a disability, not someone with “no ability.” By now, after the emergence of countless mental health advocates, people should be more aware of the struggles of Filipinos who have psycho-social illnesses, she said.
“And before you say that depression is just a creation of one’s mind, lack of faith and weakness, I pray that you do not experience what we are going through, and that if you do suffer from this, no one will tell you that ‘It’s all in your mind,'” Aquino said.
Aquino attached a photo of her PWD ID in her post. In the Philippines, people with disabilities are issued an ID so they could get benefits from certain establishments and government institutions.
In an interview with Coconuts Manila, Aquino explained that she wrote the post after chatting with another artist who wanted to collaborate with her in creating new songs. They had a hard time understanding each other on chat, and the man decided to call her so they can discuss.
“I turned down all the calls and he said ‘Why?’ I explained that calls trigger my panic attacks because of a traumatic experience from phone calls before,” the Laguna State Polytechnic University student said.
Aquino sent a photo of her PWD ID to the man to prove that she has depression and bipolar disorder. But the man refused to believe her and criticized her instead.
“That’s not the first time it happened to me. There were a lot of instances when I received that sort of reaction. I got fed up and felt the need to speak up,” she said.
“[A]nd then, I became surprised that my post went viral. I am happy that a lot of people were able to relate; there were those who reached out to me. There were some who bashed me, but that’s OK, my voice being heard for all the people in the same situation is enough,” she added.
She said that it has never been an easy journey for her, and admitted that she had grown tired of explaining her disabilities to other people.
“I reached the point where I stopped caring about other people, but when I changed my major to psychology in college, I [began to] understand that such matters need to be heard, that people fear what they don’t understand,” she said.
She also learned her mental health struggles are better explained to avoid any misunderstandings. Her relationship with her family also taught her that people with psychological disabilities will not be heard unless they speak up.
Do you know of any young, interesting Filipino whose advocacy is promoting mental health? Tell us about them by leaving a comment below or tweeting to @CoconutsManila.