CAGAYAN DE ORO, Sep. 15 – This year’s Dagyaw calls for inclusivity and accessibility of government services, especially to the sector of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in Northern Mindanao.

The event, marked by its impressive turnout of more than 500 participants, provided a platform for an open dialogue on mental health and suicide prevention. These participants encompassed students, mental health advocates, government officials, and mall passers-by.

Commitment to fostering inclusivity

Among these discussions, one pressing issue stood out: the dire need to enhance mental health services for PWDs, with particular attention to the deaf-mute community.

Highlighted in the dialogue is the emphasis on the urgency of access to mental health care. One of the leaders of the deaf-mute sector said that the communication barriers, cultural sensitivities, and the absence of trained specialists at the barangay and local levels make it difficult for the sector to seek and obtain the support they need.  

The statement made a call from the government to the need for professionals who can bridge the communication gap and offer specialized mental health support tailored to the deaf-mute community.

Government representatives and renowned medical professionals, including Center for Health and Development – Northern Mindanao Nurse Ma. Dolores Mercado, acknowledged the concern and assured the community that they would recommend their concerns to the higher authorities for support and prompt action.

Moreover, Nurse Mercado also supported the statement that the government must implement policies and programs and explore initiatives to train professionals in sign language and cultural competency to better cater to the deaf-mute community’s mental health needs.

Strengthening the community fabric

Delving deeper into the core of mental health and suicide prevention, discussions also centered around reducing the stigma surrounding mental health and nurturing a culture of empathy, understanding, and support.

Dr. Benson C. Go, the Psychiatrist Chief of the Hospital of DOH Treatment and Rehabilitation Center – Cagayan de Oro City, reminded the body that the help of a robust support network and improvement of government initiatives, programs, and policies will aid in shedding light on mental health issues and suicide prevention.

“To extend your support and help safeguard the well-being of those around you, it is important to take the following actions: (1) listen; (2) be there; (3) help keep them safe; (4) help them connect; (5) and follow-up,” he emphasized.

Turning dialogue into tangible progress

DILG 10 Regional Director Wilhelm M. Suyko, CESO IV, encouraged everyone to engage more in open conversations and dialogues on mental health, extending not just within the families but also to educational institutions, workplaces, and public forums.

“As leaders and advocates for mental health and suicide prevention, let us foster a culture of dialogue and support to create a community where everyone feels valued, heard, and supported,” he said.

As the community moves forward with a renewed sense of compassion and commitment to mental health, the Dagyaw 2023 Town Hall Meeting served as a testament to the transformative potential of dialogue, unity, and understanding in building resilient communities that prioritize the well-being of all their members. The event not only offers guidance but also inspires the way towards a brighter, more empathetic, and inclusive future for Northern Mindanao. (PDMU / P. Felicilda)