What Everyone Should Learn About Depression And Mental Health From Journalist Seph Ubalde
Seph Ubalde was 34 years old when he passed away last week.
His sister confirmed the writer and former broadcast journalist's death; in his hotel room, he was found lifeless by the staff of a luxury hotel in Bonifacio Global City. Though an in-house doctor had tried to revive him, Seph had ultimately breathed his last, allegedly showing no signs of physical struggle during his passing.
Though multiple theories had surfaced to explain his death, a Facebook post uploaded onto The Digital Nomad—an online "column dedicated to social media in the Philippines"—suggested that Seph might have, indeed, taken his own life.
The 33-minute video was published after Seph had died; it was a scheduled post, and suggested that Seph might have been contemplating on ending his life and had prepared for it.
Titled "My depression," the lengthy video focuses on Seph in his hotel room who spoke in detail about his years-long battle with mental health issues. He began with recounting his experiences at one of his lowest points, admitting that he had sought out professional help from a psychologist and received treatment, including prescribed medication, after being diagnosed with depression.
Before moving onto his main message, Seph emphasized the importance of seeking treatment and "fighting"—he was addressing individuals who, like him, have struggled to manage depression and other psychological issues.
The seemingly cheerful and positive Seph then dove deep into what he wished he had more of in life, to help him rise above the feelings he couldn't escape—more meaningful relationships with friends, an open-minded family unafraid to acknowledge mental health issues, the transformation of Philippine society's misunderstandings and misconceptions about mental health.
It's an in-depth and honest, albeit tragic, look into the needs of someone debilitated by depression. For those closest to Seph, the video will be difficult to watch to the very end; he cited specific instances where his innermost circle could have been better, and more supportive, overall.
But let Seph's pain become something good; if we truly listen to what he has to say, we can turn his passing into a catalyst for learning and lasting change in attitude towards those with mental health issues.
Here's what we learned from Seph and everything he shared:
Mean what you say
We're taught that a simple "How are you?" can have the biggest impact on individuals with depression, especially those who believe that people no longer care for or about them. But Seph emphasized that it's not as simple as that; you must actually show genuine interest in someone's well-being and be willing to have a conversation. It won't mean anything if you ask for the sake of asking.
Watch your language
Oftentimes, individuals with depression (or other psychological diagnoses) choose to suffer on their own, never seeking help or confiding in their loved ones, because of the reactions or "advice" that might ensue. Responses like "it'll pass," "you're just having a bad day," or "you're just overthinking," or anything similar invalidate their feelings. These common sentences, however harmless they may appear, do cause damage by downplaying the (sometimes life-threatening) struggles of mental health sufferers to an off month.
Instead, investigate further; if a friend or family member ever expresses or hints at having depression, ask questions, rather than give advice without knowing the full extent of what they're going through.
Time is of the essence
Yes, we're all busy with our lives and it's almost impossible to take the time off just to hang out and listen to a friend. But more than medication, and more than dialogue with a psychologist or a psychiatrist, what those with mental health struggles need are friends willing to make the sacrifice to listen—giving up an hour or two of your time may be all it takes to save a life. You never know if that friend of yours who asked to see you after work, saying they wanted to talk, might have been at the end of their fuse.
Faith and prayer
As predominantly Catholic people who have been taught that faith and prayer can adress most, if not all, issues in life, Filipinos reflexively advise those with problems to go to church, read the Bible, or simply reinforce their faith in other ways. However, Seph told us to avoid doing so as much as we can, not because religion plays no role in the healing process, but because prayers do not, and cannot, address the root causes of depression. Faith can help keep the hope for better days to come alive, but it rarely is the be-all and end-all cure to mental illness.
There is a tendency to use comparisons in a misguided attempt to "put things into perspective" for a depressed individual. That is to say, we may cite our own experiences or those of people we know to show our depressed friend or family member that what they're going through is much smaller and more manageable. Seph said to stop this—immediately. This too belittles the struggles of depression and makes depressed individuals feel as if their experiences are not deserving of attention and help.
Understanding vs. sensitivity
Understanding is different from sensitivity, and it is the latter that's proven to be more crucial in helping those with mental health issues get better. Understanding could mean passing no judgment on a friend or family member who admits to having depression or other psychological conditions and accepting them nonetheless; sensitivity is having the sincere desire to find out how they're doing, ask how you can be of help, spot changes in their mood or behavior, and quickly reach out if a crisis is sensed. Sensitivity is being more proactive and empathetic.
Seph continued to speak more about the topic and provides an insightful take on the state of mental health in the country and how we all can do our best to improve it. From businesses to medical institutions, to friends, families, and co-workers, everyone has a role to play in giving back depressed individuals their lives and the happiness they, too, deserve to feel.
After shedding a few tears and a last plea for everyone to be kind to one another, Seph simply concluded the video by saying, "See you on the other side."
Watch Seph's full video below:
If you are or if someone you know is thinking about suicide or self-harm, please remember that help is a phone call away.
In the Philippines, please call suicide prevention hotline numbers at the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation: 02-804-4673 (HOPE), or 0917-558-4673 (HOPE).
You may also call the Manila Lifeline Centre at 02-896-9191, or 0917-854-9191. In the US, please call 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). #suicideprevention #suicidepreventionhotline
Photos from @seph_ubalde