Couple of weeks ago, hall of famer comedian Joey de Leon got into trouble. Of the worst kind. He ran afoul of social media. Because he apparently did one of the most despicable acts a human being can ever do: question the fashionable dogma on depression, claiming it was just “gawa-gawa” by people “nagpapasosyal lang.”
He later apologized, claiming unfamiliarity with the subject. He really shouldn’t have.
To a certain extent, De Leon was right: a number of people claiming depression are indeed nagpapa-sosyal lang.
This is definitely not denying that depression and mental health problems exist. Clearly it does. In fact, the virulent reaction alone to De Leon’s off-hand comment evidences that.
One study declares that 20% (or 1 in 5) of Filipinos suffer from mental health problems (at least in 2016). Of that, around 5 million Filipinos (1 in 20) would be suffering from clinical depression.
But merely socializing, in reality or in cybersphere, one gets the impression most of the country is suffering from depression, anxiety, or whatever: hence, news of a “depressed” celebrity going to Paris and Spain, a student from a local self-proclaimed “best” law school “depressed” because he didn’t top the Bar, this professional woman who ditched her husband and now traipses around the Maldives to “find herself.”
Many times depression (along with another fashionable mental health problem: being bipolar) has been used by attention-seekers to excuse their bad behavior or inability to be mature and control their emotions.
It is those people — not reasonably ordinary people like Joey de Leon who (like any of us) will make mistakes — for whom social reprimand should be poured.
It is they who cheapen and trivialize a real problem just to indulge in self-worship. And social media let’s them get away with it.
It is for these people I wholeheartedly agree that a curt “pull yourself together!” is the best response.
Prudently, of course.
It doesn’t help that Hollywood and social media insist in portraying mental health sufferers as nothing more than eccentrically charming.
But that’s not true and this inconsistency is confusing many; these people do suffer problems that demand our understanding, kindness, patience.
The other thing weird about the whole episode is that while people are ostensibly asking for understanding, charity, and gentleness towards people who are (I presume actually and really, as opposed to those merely pretending) suffering from depression, all that understanding, charity, and gentleness is thrown out the window the moment somebody says a contrary statement.
Don’t people see the irrational inconsistency there?
Assuming Joey de Leon was wrong (and from a different perspective he is, as discussed), wouldn’t the adult and mature reaction to a fellow member of our society is to be understanding, charitable, and gently tell him why and where he went wrong?
Not the biblical gnashing of teeth, public tears, over-sharing in TV or social media, and overall general hatred?
Which leads me back to my previous point: a lot of people in or out of social media nowadays simply need to grow up and mature.
To live in society precisely means to live with restraints, the restraints being the common things we as a society agreed should be restrained.
The narcissist who declares “I should be able to do whatever the f — — k I want!” is unthinkingly selfishly inviting chaos.
We actually invented institutions to further clarify those restraints: marriage and family, schools, churches, civic organizations, and even government.
Rather than restraining freedom, those institutions were carefully structured to give direction to our impulses, restrain our passions, and help us live together in peace and harmony, and be the best we can be.
Our Constitution’s design closely adhering to that of the US, the words of John Adams should make us pause: “Avarice, ambition, revenge… would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
So, with a country having one of the highest incidences of depression in Southeast Asia and suicide being the second leading killer of the youth, perhaps rather than attacking others, we should instead be asking “why?”
Why, unlike other countries, is the Philippines increasingly succumbing to these malaise?
After all, it’s not like our country is war-torn ravaged or economically collapsing.
The popular and exclusive target of blame is social media. But that for me is a cop-out. There’s also the disintegration of the traditional marriage and the family, and the lessening value we place on them.
As I wrote previously (and citing Mona Charen), “it turns out that adolescent depression and suicide are closely linked with divorce and single parenting. Teens who live with a single parent have twice the rate of suicide attempts as those who live with both parents.
If we keep denying this, then that is truly depressing.
Jemy Gatdula is a Senior Fellow of the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations and a Philippine Judicial Academy law lecturer for constitutional philosophy and jurisprudence.