Nearly two years of community quarantine and a series of lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic has caused overwhelming emotions and exhaustion. 

The ABS-CBN Foundation, in partnership with Sun Life Canada, Sun Life Foundation, and Halcyon Mental Health, worked together to address this. The collaboration resulted in “Mind Check,” free Psychological First Aid (PFA) training sessions to 81 Foundation employees and community partners from different parts of the country. 

PFA training aims to teach and equip participants to do regulate and understand their emotional and psychological states, in turn to help them determine their capacity to help others. 

“Psychological First Aid is important, as you can see in our situation today that there are so many mental health issues. The very crucial topic in our country today is mental health,” said Ernie Lopez, ABS-CBN Foundation director for advocacy in his opening speech. 

A mental health advocate himself, Lopez highlighted the importance of taking the first step in self-care, and to be able to help and reach out to those who need support. 

“Mental health is just as important as physical and emotional health. The first step to psychological first aid is to process yourself. Bago ka makatulong sa iba, kailangan tulungan mo muna sarili mo (Before you can help others, you need to help yourself first),” Lopez said.

Among the points highlighted during the “Mind Check” sessions are: ability on how to control emotional responses to a situation, understanding energy levels at different times, practicing mindfulness by focusing on one task at a time, and setting boundaries when it comes to what you spend your time or energy on. 

On the way to becoming “PFAiders,” the participants also engaged in a role-playing activity, where they applied what they learned in sample scenarios they might encounter in real life.

“’Mind Check: Psychological First Aid Sessions’ brought a lot of learnings, realization and provided a better understanding of how mental illness can affect a person’s life. It gives me confidence when helping those who are suffering like family members or a friend or co-teacher,” said Myla Antonio, a teacher from one of the Foundation’s partner schools in Gubat, Sorsogon.

Singer, songwriter and mental health advocate Kiana Valenciano capped the “Mind Check” sessions with a heartwarming message for everyone.

“On behalf of every Filipino, working on to better their mental health, I want to congratulate everyone for pursuing this mental health training. You all have the power to instill change and create a better tomorrow. You all have the power to make a difference,” Valenciano said.

Equipping the participants with the right skills is one of the steps to destigmatize asking for mental health support. Patricia Mallari, lead for Program, Administration, and Management of Sun Life Foundation, sent her hopes that the partnership of Sun Life Canada, Sun Life Foundation, AFI, and Halcyon Mental Health brought a remarkable impact on the communities’ lives.

“Pandemic has taken so much from us. We hope that we were able to spread some light and warmth from the sun. To our strong community leaders, we hope that this training will help you and your loved ones with your journey towards a happier life,” Mallari said.

The “Mind Check” PFA training sessions were held online, over the course of three Saturdays in August 2021, facilitated by Halcyon Mental Health, through the support of Sun Life Canada and Sun Life Foundation, for the benefit of ABS-CBN Foundation.