MANILA — As the pressures of the pandemic continue to take a toll on everyone’s mental health, a doctor is encouraging companies to build support groups that will provide a “psychological safe space” for people to express themselves without being judged, blamed or isolated.
Dr. Gia Sison, an occupational medicine and mental health expert, said women in particular can benefit from support groups. Citing a Global Burden of Disease study in 2015, she noted that more females suffer from depressive disorders compared to men.
“During this time, it is crucial to create an accepting environment, and for us to explore all means possible to build that,” Sison said in a recent virtual briefing organized by Telus International Philippines (TIP) and the home and personal care brand Messy Bessy.
“In understanding and empathizing with what women like you may be going through, it may contribute to you feeling lighter and supported. This can already spark meaningful connections that people crave as we have to be socially distant for now,” Sison added, who said joining a support group for cancer while she was undergoing chemotherapy greatly helped her “push through.”
Support groups are particularly useful for working moms who need help in balancing their responsibilities at home and in the office, Sison said.
An example of this is the Connections Women’s Network, a women-focused resource group by TIP. It has organized talks and workshops to help female-identifying employees, with topics such as homeschooling 101, breast cancer awareness, domestic violence, and budgeting for the self and family.
“Having that sense of belonging, of knowing that those around you accept you for who you are, it’s a very liberating and exhilarating feeling,” said TIP operations director Jonabee Beltran-Catura, who is also the co-chair of Connections Women’s Network.
“Being a part of a company with empowered women and with allies who all go the extra mile to help you succeed in your personal and professional life can greatly reduce stress, boost your confidence and resilience, and encourage rapport and collaboration in the workplace,” she added.
To build a support group, Sison advised companies to start by equipping volunteers with proper skills such as communication, and then backing it up with policy.
Meanwhile, those who are looking for support groups outside of their workplace can also find plenty of free options online, such as Lunas Collective and Mental Health Matters by former Miss International Kylie Verzosa.