PLDT, Smart strengthen Siargao’s community-based mental health program with Psychological First Aid training

More than a year after Typhoon Odette ravaged the homes of Siargao’s residents, the island has since been on a path towards rehabilitation and recovery. To strengthen the mental health and wellbeing of Siargao residents, the local government of the Municipality of General Luna in Surigao del Norte recently partnered with PLDT and Smart to launch its community-based mental health program through the Psychological First Aid (PFA) training.

Participants huddle together to discuss their group presentation as part of the scenario-based role-playing, which is part of the PFA training.

“With digital wellness as one of the key advocacies of PLDT and Smart, we are working with likeminded organizations to create activities that will encourage a culture of kindness and empathy – both online and offline. We are privileged to partner with the Rural Health Unit of General Luna as they strengthen their mental health program, benefitting local families and communities,” said Judee Chaves, PLDT and Smart Mindanao Relations Head.

PFA aims to provide first-aid, non-intrusive care by conducting in-person sessions to those who are mentally distressed. Moderate to severe cases are escalated to the Municipal Health Center.

“Immediately after Typhoon Odette, we ensured that the health of the people in the community was intact. We needed to address the trauma experienced by our people. Through our partnership with PLDT and Smart, we were able to launch our Psychological First Aid program, which supports the mental health care of our community,” Dr. Timothy Jordan Manalang, Municipal Health Officer from General Luna, Surigao del Norte.

A group reenacts an incident that is in need of PFA assistance as part of the training.

Through Siargao’s PFA program, representatives of various sectors were trained to become mental health care first responders. This includes barangay and municipal health officers as well as midwives and emergency responders.

For Manilyn Alcala, who has been a midwife for 10 years, the lessons learned during the PFA training help build rapport and trust between the person needing mental health care, and the first responders.

“This training is very important to us because we strengthened our ways to communicate and to provide simple counselling when we are with the community. The training is a reminder on how we can respond better to the needs of the community,” Alcala said.

Promoting digital wellness is a key part of PLDT and Smart’s continuing commitment to help the Philippines contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goal (UNSDG) #3 that stands for good health and well-being.