Article written by Jose Marcel Yuzon Magno, ΜΣΦ 2022

BAGUIO, BENGUET – The QEFF Team traveled to the Le Monet Hotel in Baguio City as delegates of the Quisumbing-Escandor Film Festival to the Writeshop for the Development of Facilitator’s Guides for Films on Mental Health & Substance Use. The team worked together with representatives from the World Health Organization (WHO), Department of Health – Cordillera Administrative Region (DOH-CAR), Department of Health Essential Non-Communicable Diseases Division (DOH-ENCD), Department of Health – Dangerous Drug Abuse Program (DOH-DDAP), Department of Health – Health Promotion and Communications Services (DOH-HPCS), Baguio General Hospital, National Center for Mental Health, Doctors to the Barrio Program, and the top psychiatrists in the country to review the films. The passionate delegates also suggested how the films may best be utilized, driven by the objective of creating thorough and extensive guidelines for the discussion of nine different films as training tools for Community-Based Management of Substance Use Disorders and the Mental Health Gap Action Program.

The Writeshop kicked off with motivating words from Dr. Amelita Pangilinan, DOH – CAR Asst. Director. “No Mental Health is equal to no health at all…Mental Health is the flavor of the month especially with the very controversial war on drugs, countless depressions, suicides, and psychoses, it’s high time for us in government to do something,” she said, emphasizing how advocates and government agencies alike must work together and strike while the iron is hot. After igniting every participant’s passionate souls, Dr. Prescy Cuevas, DOH ENCD Division Chief, emphasized, “People nowadays just scroll and scroll [through Facebook newsfeeds]. They can watch videos [on Facebook] and start asking questions…the Facilitator’s Guidelines should titillate discussion.” Dr. Jasmine Vergara, National Professional Officer on Mental Health and Substance Abuse of the WHO, followed by highlighting the importance and power of advocacy and reminding the attendees how crucial advocacy is in the development of the implementing rules and regulations of the recently passed RA 11036. She concluded by setting the tone for the writeshop. She declared, “I believe [the films] will have an impact on reaching the local context…bridging the gap of how to understand mental health disorders in the community.”

The work began with the film-showing and analysis of nine films that were the foundation of the Facilitator’s Guidelines. These films focused on a variety of mental health disorders. The issue of Substance Abuse Disorder was addressed with the films “Psychonaut” and “Bedtime Paradox”. Widespread and poorly understood disorders such as Psychosis, represented by “Hawla” and Depression, represented by “Oh, Aking Katoto” were discussed. Suicide, an irreversible but preventable consequence of mental health disorders, is also discussed with the Grand Champion “Comfort Room”. Bipolar Disorder was also portrayed in film with “The Tides”. The neurodegenerative disorder Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease was touched with “Elehiya ng Paglimot”. Social Anxiety Disorder was handled with “Sa Alaala ni Colin”. And the portrayal of hope for recovery and proper Psychosocial Support was illustrated with “Special Trip”. These disorders were focused on due to their prevalence in the Philippines, as well as their relevance in the mhGAP program.

Formulating the Facilitator’s Guides involved appraisal of the films as instructional tools, identification of relevant technical notes about the disorders being tackled by the films, and establishment of key concepts about such disorders that warranted discussion. Guide questions for discussion were also drafted, focusing on exploring the awareness, empathy and understanding, and strategies for change of the potential audience of the film discussions. The Facilitator’s Guides conclude with Recommendations and anticipated Possible Challenging Questions.

Upon completion of the first drafts, all nine of the Facilitator’s Guidelines were presented and discussed. Educated discussions led to insights running the gamut from critical comments to overwhelming approval. After reassessment, second drafts of Facilitator’s Guidelines were constructed, then collated by the QEFF Team.

The Writeshop concluded in a joyous and hopeful tone after producing nine different Facilitator’s Guidelines, building a multitude of strong new connections between people passionately inspired by the same advocacy, and taking a step towards addressing the stigma surrounding mental health in the Philippines. With the establishment of these Facilitator’s Guides, we look forward to having more standardized and directed film discussions during our future Caravans; thus deepening the impact, and maximizing the potential for change of the Quisumbing-Escandor Film Festival.

Join us in the advocacy! If you’re interested in holding a film screening and discussion in your area as part of the QEFF Caravan, please e-mail us at qeff3.mentalhealth@gmail.com or message us through https://www.facebook.com/QEfilmfest/