SPROUT (Speak Out, Reach Out) A Mental Health Mission for Marawi

The dilemma in Marawi has been one of the biggest issues the country faced this year.

In recent reports last July, the number of deaths recorded in Marawi City against the terrorist group of Maute was close to 700, as said by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). In a report by Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesman, it said that three soldiers have been added to the toll since the count was updated on August 5.

Aside from the government, at least 523 Islamic State-linked Maute gunmen were also killed as the military intensified its offensives. The military also seized 602 firearms from the Maute members and from its hideouts within the besieged city.Civilians killed remained at 45, as well as the number of civilians rescued, which is at 1,728.

Even with all the violence and bigotry that occured, hope and justice still prevailed and soon, the war was over. 

The Philippines announced last October the end to five months of military operations in a southern city held by pro-Islamic State rebels, after a fierce and unfamiliar urban war that has marked the country’s biggest security crisis in years.

Offensive combat operations were terminated after troops prevailed in what was the last stand against rebel gunmen who clung on inside several buildings in the heart of Marawi, and refused to surrender.

The bodies of 40 of those fighters and two of their wives were found on Monday in two buildings and a mosque in the battle zone. Artillery and automatic gunfire were still heard on Monday and Reuters journalists saw flames behind a mosque.

However, there are still many people that need help not just physically and materially, but mentally as well. With this, the Youth for Mental Health Coalition (Y4MH) came up with a project entitled SPROUT or Speak Out, Reach Out Marawi.

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The Youth for Mental Health Coalition (Y4MH) is a non-profit organization whose objective is to support measures for the legislation and implementation of a Philippine Mental Health Law. It also aims to spread mental health awareness and improve access to mental health care and education. In partnership with International Youth United (IYU), a mission-based organization dedicated to enforcing human rights and ensuring community development, the coalition is currently organizing the SPROUT: Speak Out, Reach Out project.

SPROUT is a mental health mission to geographically-isolated and disadvantaged areas which aims to provide Psychological First Aid (PFA) and various interventions to Internally-Displaced Persons (IDPs) on which we identified the Local Government Unit of Marawi City, Lanao Del Sur. Furthermore, the project aims to give referrals to medical, psychiatric, and psychological services; and initiate capacity building activities for youth mental health advocates in the area. This is set to happen from January 2 to 8, 2018. Last August 15, the coalition pitched SPROUT in the Angat Buhay Youth Summit 2017 which was organized by the Office of the Vice President of the Philippines. It was among the Top 10 Awardees.

Talang Dalisay is lucky enough to partner with Y4MH as organizational affiliates and media partners with SPROUT Marawi. Here we cover and interview some of the great minds behind the SPROUT Marawi initiative.

Ma. Sheena Joshiel Olgado: Sponsorship, Partnership & Finance Committee Head

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  1. Where did you study/currently studying? How do you balance your education and advocacy work at the same time?

I’m currently studying at De La Salle University, taking up BS Accountancy. Balancing education and advocacy work may not always be easy especially when exam week comes but as long as I know my priorities, balancing won’t really be as difficult. I keep a schedule and make sure that I allot enough time for everything that I do. I also understand that taking occasional breaks from things is very important, so I include that in my schedule. I think that the key to balancing education and advocacy work is control over one’s self– it’s easy to make a schedule but it’s not really easy to follow it. So, I guess, one must learn to be strict in keeping a schedule.

2. What made you interested in becoming part of the solution for mental health? What’s the goal of SPROUT Marawi for you?

As a person who has been diagnosed with mental health issues, I experience the stigma myself. Dealing with the illness is hard already, and all the discrimination made it even harder for me to cope. I do not want the people in Marawi to feel that. The week-long mental health mission will allow the participants to feel a stigma-free environment where they can openly talk about their problems without being judged. And that’s one of the goals of SPROUT Marawi– to end the stigma on mental health by conducting mental health missions.

3. How is it working on the SPROUT Marawi Project? Any high or low points so far?

I understand that SPROUT Marawi is a big project. I think it’s important that I’ve known that from the start. Financing the project is, of course, one of the major concerns especially that it is a project of youth-led non-profit organizations. I guess the biggest strength of this project is its people. Its people believe in the project and they are willing to go an extra mile to be of help. Its people are all working together very hard and that’s what the people in Marawi can hold on to. I’d consider the fact that we only have a few months left to raise enough funds to implement the project a bit challenging. It’s normal to get rejected by companies when asking for sponsorships, and though it kind of slows us down, it does not discourage us from going on.

4. What message can you give to individuals who are interested but are afraid in becoming part of the solution for the dilemma in marawi?

First off, I don’t think there’s something to be afraid of in becoming part of a solution for anything. Interest is the spark that creates the ideas that later on lead to action. Don’t lose it or ignore it in any way. Start a campaign by yourself, find people to work it– just do something about it. You wouldn’t regret once the hard work has paid off.

Elizabeth Ruth Deyro: Partnerships & Sponsorships Executive

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1. I am a BA Communication Arts student-on-hiatus at the University of the Philippines Los Baños. I decided to dedicate my time away from school to advocacy work for a cause that I firmly believe in.

2. I advocate for a change of mindset about mental health in the Philippines by raising awareness, lobbying for the enactment of a national policy, and ultimately eliminating the stigma linked to mental health. This is primarily because I have firsthand experience with mental illness, the stigma it entails, and the compromised quality of mental health care as it is not widely viewed as a priority. I saw the call for volunteers for SPROUT Marawi from my orgmates at Y4MH. I was already familiar with SPROUT and thus had an idea as to what the Marawi Mental Mission would be about. I think the goal of the project is to serve as a practical application of the objectives I have mentioned earlier. Mental health is often neglected, and what makes it worse is that people, particularly those from the lower to middle class, are not even aware of its importance. I believe that, more than providing care to the people of Marawi, this project ultimately aims to let people know and understand that mental health is a priority much like physical health, and must be addressed accordingly.

3. Working for the Sponsorships, Partnerships, and Finance Committee is both exciting and stressful. Spon work has always been a test of patience, and I’m glad that the pressure and stress are for a really worthwhile cause. So far, it has been hard to get sponsors and partners, as we have a significantly high amount to be raised, and companies and orgs just are not usually fond of sponsoring projects of non-profit organizations, but through hard work and team effort, I believe that we’ll find ways around it and still be able to effectively deliver the tasks required of us.

4. I understand that the idea of fighting something so culturally-embedded and perpetuated as social stigma seems daunting, and it really is, but if you know that there is something wrong, and you see that there is something you can do to correct it, do not hesitate to try. Trust your gut and believe in the people who have the same vision as you. It may be ambitious, but if you believe that it will be worth it, go ahead and try. You’re likely to be right.

Isabella Ng

1. I’m studying at Assumption College San Lorenzo. I balance my work by listing down the things I think I need to do, prioritize the work that have earlier deadlines than the others, and most of all, manage my anxiety/emotions so that I won’t loose focus while I work.

2. I had a deep yearning to do volunteer work that was beyond my comfort zone. There were many times I signed up for numerous organizations but I couldn’t join because it would interfere with family affairs or I didn’t make the cut. I believe it’s by fate that I was accepted to join this cause because I was diagnosed with depression and maybe this is a call to give back. For me, the goal of SPROUT Marawi is to not only help the Marawan people get back on their feet, but also to provide a wholistic mental health care plan that will aid the Filipinos when disaster occurs in the country, starting with the victims of war in Marawi City.

3. I’m part of the sponsorship committee and any student who has ever been in such a committee knows how difficult it is to find sponsors. The high points are obviously when you receive a ‘yes’ from a company, but also getting to know the people you’re working with.

4. Never give up in finding a way to give back.

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