18-year-old girl leader wants to be #FreeToBeOnline to raise mental health awareness amid COVID-19 pandemic | Plan International Skip to main content

18-year-old girl leader wants to be #FreeToBeOnline to raise mental health awareness amid COVID-19 pandemic

For Shem, 18, a disaster as large-scale as the COVID-19 global pandemic can really take a toll on one’s mental well-being.

“Mentally and emotionally, I struggle in dealing with stress and the changes in my mood,” she says, noting that community quarantine, and other measures implemented to curb the spread of the virus, has changed her lifestyle tremendously.

A self-confessed extrovert, a large chunk of Shem’s time was usually spent in school activities as a student council vice-president. Devoid of her usual routine, she admits that dealing with the emotional stress brought by the pandemic has been a challenge.

“I'm also a type of girl who is very extrovert I always want to work outside and experiencing this pandemic really changed my lifestyle,”she says.

At a young age, Shem also feels the financial impact of the health crisis. Her father, a security guard and the sole income earner in the family had lost his job for almost two months due to the pandemic.

“I'm the only girl in the family and I'm the youngest, I… [want] to help my parents financially but I can't because I'm too young and my parents [has] disapproved of the idea,” she says.

“I do really need and want to have a job and help my parents in our financial needs,” she adds.

Shem believes that many people her age share the same sentiments and are also struggling in dealing with the unprecedented situation.

For her, with stresses bombarding young men and women amid the global health crisis and with the rise in the use of social media, it is high time to raise awareness on mental health.

“There’s a need to push for mental health awareness nowadays especially now that we are dealing with a pandemic, something that is relatively new to us. Now that most of us are in the social media, youth and parents alike, we can use the platform to amplify awareness on this issue that concerns the youth,”she says.

Considering her age and the stigma on the issue itself, advocating mental health awareness online, however, is a challenge, she says.

“People may accuse me of being petty, turning every little thing to bigger issue. At my age, people may say that I’m not credible enough to talk about mental health,”she says.

Aside from being a student council member, Shem also had a stint leading “Lusog-Isip ng Kabataan”, a school-based organization advocating for mental health awareness. Her involvement with the said organization had opened doors for her to attend seminars on mental health by reputable institutions.

Moreover, Shem and other student facilitators of the Our City 2030: Youth Visions and Solutions Project will soon undergo a Training on Peer Facilitation in providing Psychosocial Support as part of the project’s initiative in caring for and managing mental health issues of the students brought about by the impact of COVID-19 pandemic.

For now, she is planning to conduct webinars on mental health for her fellow youth, an advocacy she would like to do online safely and free from all sorts of abuse and harassment.

Shem wants the internet to be safer so youth like her can maximize the power of social media to forward their advocacies.

Shem is a student facilitator of the Our City 2030 Project: Youth Visions and Solutions implemented by WWF Philippines and Plan International Philippines, an urban youth project focusing on young people's contribution to the development of their city roadmap trajectories towards the 1.5C Paris Agreement, including ambitions and actions for both climate mitigation and adaptation, while promoting the use of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) as a way of learning.