Addressing mental health conditions among women and children

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 01 2017 10:03 PM | Updated as of Apr 01 2017 10:44 PM

A Mental Health bill has recently been proposed at the senate seeking to create an official body to oversee the mental state of patients.

With discussion on mental health becoming more and more open in the Philippines, understanding of conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), dementia, and epilepsy are becoming more prevalent in the country.

For most parents, hyperactivity among children is something that is dismissed as normal. 

Neurologist Dr. Leonor Cabral-Lim says although children usually have high energy and are easily distracted, parents can be wary of some red flags that their children may be more than just hyperactive.

ADHD, a mental condition usually characterized by hyperactivity and problems on focusing, have red flags that parents can look out for, according to Cabral-Lim.

She says children with moderate to severe ADHD usually do not engage in any eye contact and have problems in paying attention. 

Behavioral changes which are difficult to manage are also some of the things that may signal ADHD.

Cabral-Lim notes that the first step to addressing ADHD is acceptance, most especially on the part of parents. 

“[For] most parents, the most important is acceptance and of course trying to get professional help,” she said.

Children with ADHD can be subject to occupational and behavioral therapy as treatment, says Cabral-Lim.

Meanwhile, for older women, being forgetful is something that is usually thought of as a normal part of aging. 

But Dr. Socorro Martinez, chair of the Dementia Council of the Philippine Neurological Association says it may be a symptom of dementia.

Martinez explains that dementia is a mental disorder characterized by a decline in mental ability that affects memory, thinking, and social abilities.

Martinez says common victims of dementia are patients aged 60 and above, but younger people may also suffer from early onset of the disease.

Aside from patients diagnosed with dementia, Martinez highlights the need for caregivers to seek help, as caring for a patient with the degenerative disease usually takes a toll on their personal life.

“Look for support in their immediate family. You see in the Philippines, we have a very extended family, and that in itself is a [form of] good support for a caregiver who is taking care of a person with dementia,” Martinez said, noting that no cure has been discovered for the condition.

Another mental condition that most women fear is epilepsy, as they are concerned that they may pass it on to their child when they get pregnant.

Cabral-Lim, however, allayed such fears, citing statistics showing that women with epilepsy can have normal lives and raise children successfully.

“Majority of persons can have a successful pregnancy and bear normal children. They can have families and the maternal and obstetric outcome is good,” she said, noting that women with epilepsy can also breastfeed their babies.

In dealing with people with mental conditions, both Cabral-Lim and Martinez emphasize the need for support from the family and to not fall into the stigma surrounding mental health conditions.