Here in the Philippines, because of a lack of information and understanding about mental health in general, there is still a stigma associated with seeking counseling. To some, when they hear that a person is in need of counseling, they automatically assume that that person is insane.
However, according to a 2012 study conducted by the WHO (World Health Organization) within the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region, the Philippines ranks first in the number of people suffering from depression with an estimated number of 4.5 million individuals. The study further found that only one in three people seek professional counseling for depression.
Aware of the need for an increased awareness in mental health, two University of the Philippines (UP) students crafted their thesis around designing a mobile-based application. Chad Errol Booc and Chara Mae San Diego, both from the UP Diliman College of Engineering, created PsychUP, a campus-based app which will provide mental first aid to UP Manila students. UP Manila had been chosen as the testing ground for the app’s respondents as the Manila campus has been designated as the country’s national center for health sciences.
The app offers anonymity for users and it allows them to connect with one of their peers, who will then provide counseling via a two-way chat. This type of mental first aid, Booc and San Diego believe, “is necessary until the person receives professional help. This ensures that the person does not harm his or her self” beforehand. This is essential, the students noted in their thesis, as “at least 10 college students in the past years” have committed suicide.
Booc further explains that he recognizes “the need for an accessible mental health care. I have friends who had suffered from mental health problems but were not able to seek help due to inaccessibility of services… Others were afraid of seeking help thinking other people might judge them.”