Xian Gaza and the ethics of mental health discussion

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Xian Gaza, a self-styled businessman who was recently arrested over investment scam allegations, admitted to the crime in front of the camera and on his Facebook page. (Art by Uela Badayos)

Self-styled businessman Xian Gaza, who made headlines last year for his failed billboard proposal to actress Erich Gonzales, found himself under the spotlight anew after he admitted to masterminding a P2.6-million investment scam.

Gaza’s unsettling response to incarceration, which included wide toothy smiles, peace signs for the media, and a cheery indifference to both the gravity of his predicament and the squalor of his cell, has understandably baffled newsreaders from around the country.

READ: Networking gone wrong: A list of scamming allegations against Xian Gaza

Surprising for some was how he still managed to utter his famous catchphrase right after confessing to the charges and giving a heartfelt plea for forgiveness and financial assistance.

 

Despite the severity of Gaza’s charge—a violation of the Bouncing Checks Law—some have speculated on whether Gaza’s confusing response was the result of mental disorder.

“There’s something wrong talaga with Xian Gaza. He needs medication,” a Twitter user says.

“I honestly feel bad for Xian Gaza cause he obviously needs psychological help,” says another.

“It’s probably because I’ve been drowning in my majors but Xian Gaza seems to exhibit signs of Histrionic Personality Disorder, a personality disorder characterized by excessive attention-seeking behavior,” another comment goes.

Gaza’s uncanny cheer has also given some the means to contribute to the internet’s roster of memes.

Is all of this even right?

As expected, some have countered the seemingly well-intentioned speculation on Gaza’s mental health.

Silakbo PH, a youth-led art and mental health advocacy that aims to educate people on mental health issues, pointed to the ethics in the public speculation on Gaza’s mental health.

For Silakbo president and licensed psychometrician Rissa Coronel, speculation on Gaza has become inevitable on account of his fifteen seconds of fame.

“With social media, it’s easy for one to voice out their opinions regardless of background or expertise. Armchair psychologists frequently ‘diagnose’ public figures and political leaders, from Duterte to Trump,” Coronel told Interaksyon.

“Despite some of the speculators having a background in psychology or the mental health sector, I think the most responsible thing is to withhold such opinions from the public sphere. It only furthers the mental health stigma, as well as promotes self-diagnosis, misunderstanding and breaches of ethics in psychological practice,” she added.

“Despite some of the speculators having a background in psychology or the mental health sector, I think the most responsible thing is to withhold such opinions from the public sphere.”

Coronel also spoke of memes which appear to make light of Gaza’s predicament as possibly having aided to the stigma surrounding his mental health.

While Coronel agrees that Gaza should still be subject to the legal process and that material for the memes has been largely supplied by the man of the hour himself, the public still has a responsibility to temper their speculation on a matter that goes beyond simple discussion.

“His is a special case because a lot of the meme material comes from himself. The things he has posted certainly don’t help, but we can at the very least suspend our judgment of him with regard to his mental health.”