Iligan Youth Mental Health Advocates (IYMHA) is a non-profit organization that aims to improve the mental health status of Iliganon Youths through education, service, and advocacy. It envisions a just, humane, and healthy society in which Iliganon Youths are accorded with respect, dignity, and the opportunity to achieve their full potential free from stigma and prejudice. IYMHA’s objective is to ensure that mental health among Iliganon Youths is valued, promoted, and protected by supporting recovery from mental challenges, conducting relevant activities, collaborating with private and public agencies, and integrating promotional strategies, all while ensuring confidentiality. The organization is already registered under the Local Youth Development Council (LYDC) and recognized by the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Iligan City. It is also the first and only health-focused youth organization in the city, a clear indication of a lack of adequate mental health support in the area.
The Law Student Advocates of Mental Health
IYMHA was founded in December of 2020 by three medical and mental health professionals who also happen to be students of MSU College of Law Iligan Campus: Joshua Matthew C. Sanchez, their President, is a Registered Psychometrician (RPm); Gabriel Joseph M. Esporsado, their Vice President, is a Registered Nurse (RN); and Jeane Lucitte C. Marcera, their Treasurer, is also a Registered Psychometrician (RPm). They have since collaborated strategically with medical students, other mental health professionals, and secondary and tertiary level students from different schools and courses to fill up their set of officers and members, totalling 35. This diverse set of personalities enable IYMHA to tap into different institutions with ease to turn their advocacy into a reality entirely. The organization is under the advisorship of Dr. Ray Sagge, the sole Psychiatrist in the city, and Prof. Jean Taypa of the MSU IIT Psychology Department.
Mental Health Disorder in Numbers
The National Statistics Office identified mental illness as the third most prevalent form of morbidity in the country. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, in 2010, 14% out of 1.4 million Filipinos with disabilities deal with mental disorders. 14.5% out of the 10,075 participants of 2005 WHO World Health Survey in the Philippines had a diagnosis of depression, most of which are youths. Most cases of mental health disorders even remain undetected until the late stages of adulthood. In a census in 2015, Iligan City held a total population of 342,618 people, 100,237 or almost one-third of which are aged 15 to 29. If the statistics on mental disorders were applied to these numbers, it would affect a significant portion of Iligan City’s population. This is the main issue that IYMHA aims to address by knitting together mental and health institutions in the city, starting a record to track cases, and establishing a referral system to indorse individuals to the appropriate professionals and facilities.
IYMHA for Public Service
Since its establishment, IYMHA has already participated in various activities. On January 16, 2021, IYMHA bagged the position for Chairmanship of the Committee on Health during the Batan-ong Iligan’s Election of Local Youth Development Council (LYDC). The organization was also able to secure 3 of its project proposals in the LYDC Summit, which the LGU will fully fund. These projects are the Celebration of Suicide Prevention Week, Iligan City Mental Health Day, and a Mental Health Therapy for the patients of Barangay Abuno’s Rehabilitation Center. Its officers have also been actively embarking on speaking engagements. Jeane Lucitte C. Marcera talked about Youth and Social Change and Risk Factors on Stress, Depression, and Suicide during Barangay Tibanga’s celebration of its 3rd SK Youth day. Other officers have also been invited to talk at public events, and the organization has been preparing relevant materials for information drives and their upcoming activities.
The Future of Mental Health In Iligan City
Under Republic Act No. 11036, or the “Mental Health Act,” IYMHA President Joshua Matthew C. Sanchez has proposed the enactment of a Mental Health Ordinance in Iligan City, which will provide for a community-based mental health program and delivery system in the city of Iligan and appropriating funds therefor. This proposed ordinance is also in pursuance of RA No. 7277 as amended, otherwise known as the “Magna Carta for Disabled Persons,” which states that there is a need to include mental health in the public health and hospital system to render accessible, affordable, and equitable quality mental health care and services to our constituents, especially the poor, the underserved and high-risk populations. The proposed ordinance has already passed its first public hearing held at the Sangguniang Panlungsod Session Hall and is now awaiting its second reading. Its enactment will strengthen projects geared towards mental wellness, such as those of IYMHA’s.
The Key Takeaway
Mental health is a crucial component of our well-being, yet it is also one facet of health that is frequently overlooked and given the least priority. Seeking help does not hurt. What does is the ignorant and apathetic culture that society has towards it. The inadequate attention given to mental health is the main reason why the youth is often misunderstood and labeled simply as different or talentless. Mental disorders always fly under the radar because they cannot be seen, and what is essential is often invisible. We have already eradicated the falsities that envelop many sensitive issues that were then unacceptable. We must continue to act and add mental health to that list. Iligan Youth Mental Health Advocates (IYMHA) values the voice of every youth in need of mental help, and it is our mission to amplify that and create a safe space for them. It’s time to break the stigma that entails mental disorders, correct the antediluvian information surrounding it, and raise awareness towards mental health.
Gab is a second-year law student, a mental health advocate, and a registered nurse by profession. Although studying law is an odd path for a nurse, Gab believes that his years of experience in writing and speaking have equipped him to be in law school. He was an active member in their high school paper, and even as a student nurse, he took part-time writing jobs in his free time. In fact, his first job after getting his license was writing for a digital marketing company and training aspiring customer service representatives. Eventually, he became part of the company’s hiring body, selecting competent applicants and interviewing them alongside their HR personnel. Now, he is a certified law student practitioner (LSP), an active member and one of the editors-in-chief of MSU’s Sarimanok Virtual Law Clinic (SVLC), and a new member of Nexus.