Strengthening mental health resilience through community-led interventions
14 Jun 2023 | Ateneo Research and Creative Work Portfolio 2023
REGINA HECHANOVA is among the leading psychologists in the Philippines today. Her research is invested in public mental health, which focuses on those who are distressed but may not necessarily need clinical intervention. A professor in the Ateneo De Manila’s Department of Psychology, she was named among the Outstanding Young Scientists of the Philippines in 2005 by the National Academy of Science and Technology.
“Only a certain percentage, maybe less than 15% of people, really need clinical therapy. A lot more just need self help— informal interventions. That’s what we’re trying to do in the country— trying to introduce evidence-based interventions that are culturally appropriate to the Filipino people,” Hechanova explains.
Her research began in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, as its effects left many affected citizens distressed, and revealed a greater need for adequate mental health care systems and interventions. It began with her development of the Katatagan or resiliency framework.
“A lot of people think that resiliency is personality—it’s innate. But it’s actually a skill. It can be developed. So we came up with six skills: Knowing your strengths, managing your physical reactions to stress, managing your thoughts and your feelings, managing your behaviors— your lifestyle— and then we talk about problem solving,” Hechanova says.
The Katatagan program was first tested on students affected by Haiyan, which proved to be a success. “It helped them adjust and kept them sane, kept the suicide ideation, kept them from thinking about harming themselves,” she reveals.
There are only 500 psychiatrists for more than 100 million Filipinos. With the country’s meager resources for mental health, Hechanova's intervention attempts to shift the paradigm of mental health practices towards empowering communities to provide themselves evidence-based interventions geared towards mental health care. Beyond disasters, the program has been rolled out in various communities, and has been adapted to community-based drug rehabilitation and online-based programs launched during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hechanova is grateful for being surrounded by a generous community, inspired by the Atenean value of “persons-for-and-with-others.” This environment has enabled her to continue the work she does for communities.
”Research is a form of service. And I think that is something that researchers ought to aspire for; that the research that we do doesn’t just end in publications or journals; it is actually lived,” she concludes.
Access the Katatagan online course at selfhelp.cbdr.org.ph/courses/free-courses/katatagan.
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