By Brontë H. Lacsamana

BREAK YOUR STIGMA, an online campaign by cosmetics brand BYS Philippines, launched in January a free mental health survey in collaboration with psychological service Vanguard Assessments & Behavioral Dynamics, Inc. (VABDI).   

According to the website, the survey is an “evidence-based tool that screens and helps give a reflection of one’s current mental state.” Those who take the assessment will receive a brief psychological report, which can then be interpreted by a mental health professional — for a separate fee — if the person chooses to seek help.  

“There are individuals that need validation from an assessment tool that confirms their own suspicions, while others are challenged by what they see, so it leads to a moment of questioning,” said Miguel O. Valdez, VABDI chief executive officer, via e-mail.  

“Even those who are not from the field of psychology express their interest and appreciation once they get to read the reports and be provided with short descriptions of what the data means and how it affects everyday living,” he added.  

The hope of Break Your Stigma is not for the survey to be a prerequisite for seeking help, but at least a starting point to acknowledge the issues one may have.  

VABDI’s mental health assessment, which takes around 30 minutes to complete, starts off with a consent page. There, the examinee will agree to giving data like name, age, birth date, sex, educational attainment, and the results for assessment and research purposes.  

“Aside from following the Data Privacy Act, individuals handling data are licensed and fully committed to ensure that the reports of those who undergo assessment are kept confidential and only those authorized have access,” said Mr. Valdez of VABDI.  

The test itself consists of usual statements one can find in a psychological test, such as “I prefer to do things in a certain way” or “I like to draw attention to myself,” to which one selects from a range of “Very false, somewhat false, somewhat true, and very true.”  

These cover behaviors, thoughts, and physical symptoms concerned with various mental health concerns. Once completed, it takes a week for a VABDI mental health professional to evaluate and write a psychological report to be sent via e-mail.  

The report lays out in a checklist format the individual levels of concern for 25 different factors commonly measured when undergoing mental health screening — these include anxiousness, depressivity, impulsivity, and intimacy avoidance, among others.  

Those who answer the survey can glean some insights on what requires most concern. However, the free test only provides basic explanations for each of the 25 factors, and a more comprehensive assessment by VABDI costs P4,000.  

“Appreciation of the assessment will deepen once the individual proceeds to counseling inspired or guided by the desire to learn more about themselves and improve their quality of life,” said Mr. Valdez of VABDI.   

The Break Your Stigma website offers a directory of over 100 mental health professionals and organizations for Filipinos to choose from. The professional fee is separate from the fee for the comprehensive assessment.