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Opening up can ease mental burden, say trauma survivors 


SHARING experiences and stepping out of one’s comfort zone can help with healing, according to trauma survivors and mental health advocates who shared their coping strategies at a recent mental health summit. 

“One way to protect your mental health is by challenging yourself and doing something out of your comfort zone,” said Issa Colmenares, an information technology sales professional who raised funds for mental health therapy sessions through a charity boxing match. “When you do that, you build resilience and confidence.”  

“That’s the thing with trauma … even if you put it in a box, if it’s unresolved, it stays unresolved,” said Ms. Colmenares at the National Mental Health Summit organized by mental health services provider Mind You and the Department of Health. 

Empower Philippines founder and Chief Executive Officer Katherine Anne Alano guested on a podcast nine years after she was raped, when she realized that talking about her experience could help others. 

“I was so scared and crying,” said Ms. Alano. “I said, ‘I don’t want to do it’ … until a friend of mine from primary school called and said, ‘I’m so glad you’re doing it. I was raped in college and had no one to talk to.’”  

In the Philippines, only 34% of women who experienced physical or sexual violence sought help through formal systems, according to a 2020 report by UNICEF East Asia and the Pacific Regional Office. 

Survivors may choose not to come forward to report the crime until much later — or in some cases, not at all — out of fear, embarrassment, and/or shame.  

The rates of depression, anxiety disorders, and unplanned pregnancies are higher in women who have experienced violence compared to women who have not, according to UN Women (United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women).  

“One day, I decided to be happy,” said Ms. Alano. “I didn’t know what that looked like. I just started to take a step at a time because I wanted to be better and healthy.”  

Meanwhile, vlogger Marissa “Small” E. Laude prayed and consulted a therapist when she couldn’t pinpoint the reason behind her sadness. A friend eventually introduced her to the world of vlogging, which she said has since given her a sense of purpose.  

“It’s not nice to be idle because you entertain negative thoughts,” said Ms. Laude. “When I found my purpose, my negative thoughts disappeared.”  

Victor Consunji, chief executive officer of real estate developer Victor Consunji Development Corp., spoke about the stress of perceived privilege.  

Contrary to popular belief, Mr. Consunji said his family didn’t give him “a massive trust fund to play with and squander.”  

“Having this kind of life, you also have a lot of pressure,” said the third-generation scion of the family that owns D.M. Consunji, Inc. (DMCI), one of the Philippines’ largest construction companies. “The more exposure you have, the more expectation there is for people to impose what they feel you should be.”   

“I will admit my last name, the education I got, helps … but the truth of the matter is, it’s sink-or-swim in my family. We put in blood, sweat, and tears in our ventures,” he continued, noting the importance of the entire organization. “The road is never smooth. You need everybody’s support.” — Patricia B. Mirasol 

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