Families are attending online mass and finding ways to recreate religious communities virtually.

Family and community ties and faith will get Filipinos through the pandemic, according to panelists at a virtual conference on cultivating a culture of well-being.

Families can be mental health advocates by maintaining activities that enrich the experience of each member, thereby strengthening their support system, said Dr. Carolina U. Rayco, national executive director of the Philippine Mental Health Association. 

“Everything starts with the family. If kids see that we [adults] have a good disposition, then they will have a good model for how to cope with their own challenges,” she said. Republic Act No. 11036, or the the Mental Health Act, promotes mental health services, but it can “only do so much for us,” she added. 

Parents who aren’t tech-savvy can still help their children—a majority of whom are remote learners—by teaching “time management, discipline, and responsibility,” said Shiena R. Base, a technical specialist on child protection at Educo Philippines, a global development non-government organization.  

Plants, suggested Dr. Kenneth Ross P. Javate, a psychiatrist who consults at The Medical City, can be used to teach children these life skills. “Find a way to get nature inside the home. Plants, which teach the value of time and patience, are a good alternative to gadgets,” he said.

In taking care of their children, adults must not forget to take care of themselves. The 24/7 confinement imposed by the coronavirus threat has strained many marriages and has led to a rise in relationship conflicts worldwide. 

“Arguments are a part of married life. What’s not acceptable is arguments with violence,” Educo’s Ms. Base said. “Appreciate the little things and accept that differences are part of married life. If there’s violence, never hesitate to seek advice and ask for help.” 

Fr. Carmelo “Tito” A. Caluag, who hosts the weekly show Journeys of Hope on iWant, said that faith can alleviate the feeling of isolation. 

“A lot of families hear mass more nowadays because of the availability of online masses,” he said. “That’s one paradigm shift. Ang buhay panalangin nagbago [There has been a change in people’s spiritual life].”

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, he added, created programs on food security, education, well-being, malnutrition, and job creation to offer to families through dioceses. He said that some of these programs have an agri-entrepreneurship focus that addresses not only immediate needs but also long-term sustainability.

“We need to find programs that empower people again,” he said. “What we need to give the Filipino family now is hope.” 

Organized by Unilab Foundation, Inc., the Filipino Family Wellbeing Virtual Conference was a multisectoral event aimed at addressing issues related to the pandemic and the health of families. — Patricia B. Mirasol