Mental health problems are very common. In 2014, about 1 in 5 American adults experienced a mental health issue, 1 in 10 young people experienced a period of major depression, and 1 in 25 Americans lived with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression.

Depression is one of the main global health challenges. The World Health Organization forecast that in 2020 depression will be the main cause of disability worldwide. It is incredibly common, but we rarely talk about it because of the misunderstanding and stigma surrounding mental health. This stigma can lead to rejection, abuse, and exclusion of people from health care or support.

This week, Demi Lovato announced that her upcoming Tell Me You Love Me tour will include mental health counseling before the shows. Lovato has been dedicated to reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness in part by being open and candid about how therapy and rehab have helped her.

Mental health matters to everyone. We can all take the pledge to learn more about mental illness, to see a person for who they are and act on mental health issues by spreading the word and raising awareness.

How can we raise awareness to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues and allow people around the world to feel more confident in seeking help for mental illness? It is not as difficult as you imagine. There are different ways to impact mental health awareness. Here are some ideas:

TALK ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH. Ask people you know how they are doing. Be ready truly listen and not judge. Sometimes, people just need someone to listen to them.

SHARE YOUR STORY. Tell friends and family about what you are going through. Your story might be the push that encourages others to ask for help.

WRITE A BLOG ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH. Include the most up-to-date statistics and easy to understand facts on mental health and include information on where people can go for assistance.

TAKE CARE OF YOUR OWN MENTAL HEALTH. Volunteer in your community. You will improve your mental health as you work to help other people.

LEARN MORE ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH. Educate yourself about mental health, mental illness and suicide. Learn about the signs and symptoms and where to obtain help in your area.

Education on mental health can be through films. A group of medical students is leading the efforts to raise awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. In February 2018, the Mu Sigma Phi Fraternity, the first medical fraternity in the Philippines and Asia, is organizing the 3rd Quisumbing-Escandor Film Festival (QEFF) for Health.

The 1st QEFF highlighted health beliefs, while the 2nd QEFF tackled issues on maternal health. This year’s QEFF will focus on a subject that has long remained in the shadows of our consciousness – mental health. QEFF 3 will feature documentaries and short films that highlight the humanity of mental illness through its social, cultural, and personal dimensions. QEFF 3 will use these films to highlight and articulate the issues on a larger scale, to enlighten people, initiate collective action, and eventually, reduce the stigma. This year, QEFF3 is proud to have 73 inspiring and thought-provoking entries from all over the Philippines. It will also feature an exhibit of entries from Imahe, a photo contest showcasing different perspectives on mental health. 

To further catapult mental health awareness into the communities, the film festival will be followed by the QEFF Film Caravan wherein the films will be screened in schools, organizations, and barangays across the country and potentially to other countries. 

More information on the Film Festival here. Everyone is invited; admission is FREE.


  • Melvin Sanicas

    Physician, Scientist, TED Educator, Writer

    Dr. Melvin Sanicas is a physician - scientist specializing in vaccines, infectious diseases, and global health. He is a 'citizen of the world' who has lived, studied, worked in The Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, US, and UK. His op-eds, articles, and blogs have appeared in The World Economic Forum Agenda, The Project Syndicate, Huffington Post, TED Ed, Forbes, El Pais, and in over 40 print and online publications worldwide. He is a partner at the Brighton Collaboration, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health.