Depressed on Valentine’s Day? ‘Human Library’ aims to clear stigma on mental health struggles

February 14, 2018 - 5:02 PM
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Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros leads the one-day installation of the "Human Library" in Lyceum Philippines University-Manila on Wednesday, February 14, to create safe spaces and meaningful dialogue on issues regarding mental health. (Photo by Joseph Vidal for InterAksyon.)

“Giving new meaning to ‘life as an open book’.”

This was how Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros described the “Human Library,” a creative event held on Wednesday to create safe spaces and meaningful dialogue on issues regarding mental health.

Human Library, a one-day installation with the theme, “Read my mind,” aims to promote public awareness and a deeper understanding of mental health by way of tapping experts and personalities with their personal stories to share on mental wellness.

The “human books” featured in the gathering included Hontiveros, broadcast journalist TJ Manotoc, 2016 Miss International Kylie Verzosa, and Dr. Guia Sison. By relating their knowledge and personal experiences, the event aims to connect with young people in particular who are struggling with their own mental health issues.

Hontiveros, who is also the author and sponsor of the Mental Health Law passed in the Senate, led the opening of the event. She invited all those who are suffering from different forms of mental health problems, particularly those feeling depressed on Valentine’s Day, to see the Human Library as a form of self-care.

“Each of us has a story to tell. We will not only share our experiences and stories about mental health and personal struggle. We will share a bit of ourselves with you. And though our stories are different, we share one common message with all of you who may be suffering from mental health problems: you are not alone,” Hontiveros said.

Through the activity, Hontiveros also hopes to clear the stigma attached with mental health. She said: “The issues surrounding mental health should not be discussed in hushed words. It should cease to be seen as an invisible sickness spoken in whispers. Through open and participatory dialogue, we hope to create safe and inclusive spaces to discuss mental health as a real and important public health issue. It’s time that we break walls and barriers.”

The event was organized by the office of Hontiveros in partnership with Book Stop PH, Youth for Mental Health Coalition and Lyceum of the Philippines University-Manila.

Hontiveros’ Mental Health Law seeks to integrate mental health services and programs in the public health system. The measure also mandates the government to put up basic mental health services at the community level and psychiatric, psychosocial and neurologic services in all regional, provincial and tertiary hospitals.