‘You’ve gained weight,’ ‘Still single?’ and other holiday party no-nos
MANILA, Philippines — “Uy, ang taba mo na!” “Kailan ka mag-aasawa?” “Wala ka pa bang jowa?” (Hey, you’ve gained weight! When are you getting married? Still no boyfriend/girlfriend?)
With the holidays just weeks away, these usual “conversation starters” may again pop up among family members, relatives, friends or former classmates during Christmas parties or reunions.
A trivial matter to many, but not to an official of the Department of Health (DOH).
Frances Prescilla Cuevas, chief health officer of the DOH National Mental Health Program, noted that during this time of the year a number of individuals experience the holiday blues or a temporary feeling of anxiety or sadness.
“It often occurs during Christmas because there’s a lot of expectations that are happening—expectations of people from you and your own expectations of yourself,” she said in a media forum on Thursday.
Cuevas said making even a lighthearted comment on someone’s weight and being nosy about the supposed relationship milestones that person should be achieving could adversely affect his or her mental health.
“They push you to some unrealistic situations [to a point] that you question your own worth,” Cuevas said.
In the Philippines, it has become typical for people to greet relatives or friends they haven’t seen for quite some time with a comment that they have gained or lost weight. Uncles and aunts even go as far as asking their nephews or nieces why they haven’t gotten married or raised kids yet, often comparing them to their cousins who have started their own families.
“The bottom line is families should support each other,’’ Cuevas said. “We are not going to be the cause of why other people look at themselves lowly, question their own self-worth. They have their own lives to live, ways of doing things. We don’t need to compare. Let us focus on the strengths of our loved ones.”
Another trigger for the holiday blues is having unmet expectations. Cuevas said this is why people should instead make “realistic” resolutions which acknowledge their own capacities and abilities.
Though the DOH is still working on its mental health registry, Cuevas said the department has heard of anecdotal reports about suicide cases increasing during the holiday season.She said this is because many things happen during the holidays that may act as triggers and “often worsen the stress, anxiety and depression” felt by people coping with mental health problems.
The public should take note of warning signs from friends and loved ones or friends, Cuevas said. These include the feeling that life isn’t worth living anymore, losing interest in things one used to enjoy, not eating or sleeping, or giving away important items.
“Don’t be afraid to talk to that person. Ask what you can do to help. Accompany him to a mental health professional. Most especially, don’t negate his feelings by saying that he’s just acting up,” she said.
Cuevas also said it is important that people do not be too hard on themselves.
“Sometimes year-end reflections are the ones triggering our anxieties and our depression. But it is very important that when we reflect about the changes happening to us and what has remained the same, it’s good to give ourselves credit,” she said.
“We should be able to look at ourselves positively. When we look at what we have, we begin to be grateful that there are things happening in our life that make us very happy.
So we look at the future with optimism and that is very important,” she added.
Cuevas said persons who feel they need to consult a professional about such issues may call the National Center for Mental Health at 0917-899-USAP (8727) or 9898727. –JOVIC YEE
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