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  • This Doctor With Depression Shows Why Frontliners Need Serious Self-Care, Too!

    "Hindi siya madadala ng pure passion lang."
    by Iza Cuyos .
This Doctor With Depression Shows Why Frontliners Need Serious Self-Care, Too!
  • In a recent viral Twitter post, comedian-turned-trainee doctor Nadia Kamil (@NadiaKamil) posted about Pinoy nurses. She said: “I don’t know if it’s something in their training, but every Filipino nurse I’ve worked with has been a goddamn delight.” It was then followed by a global outpouring of praises for Filipino nurses.

    However, praises may not be enough to compensate for the pressure of the pandemic that has taken a toll on our Filipino frontliners’ mental and physical health.

    Dr. TJ Manalang’s story, a municipal health officer in General Luna, Siargao, echoes why our frontliners desperately need self-care.

    “‘Yung pagod ‘din of learning na ‘yung dream mo to be a public health servant is, hindi siya madadala ng pure passion lang,” Dr Tj shares in an interview with Summit OG. “At least (dapat) meron kang regimen to take care of yourself,” he said.

    Frontliners can’t live on passion alone

    Dr. TJ Manalang finished his medical studies at the Ateneo School of Medicine, and he said that even before he graduated, he had a sense that he really wanted to be in Public Health. He served as Doctor to the Barrio in San Narciso, Quezon Province for two years.

    After a while, however, he was diagnosed with a major depressive disorder. “Marami lang talagang nangyari sa akin during that time,” he said. “Pati ‘yung pagod ‘din of learning na ‘yung dream mo to be a public health servant, hindi siya madadala ng pure passion lang,” he added.


    Chasing mental health

    Before being diagnosed with depression, he had a chance to visit Siargao for a vacation. He recalled, “Nung nandito (na) ako, sabi ko sa sarili ko… 'Kung dito siguro nangyari sa’kin yung mga nangyari sa akin the past year, I think kaya lang, no?'”

    He was eventually assigned to Siargao where he said he finally found peace. “Dito ko magagamit ‘yung skills ko, while at the same time, nakakapaghanap ng peace within myself,” he said. “Siargao allows you to be at peace,” he added.

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    COVID-19 in Siargao

    When COVID-19 happened, the island of Siargao was greatly affected. The community, however, along with medical practitioners like Dr. TJ, found a way to manage the spread of infection.

    “Ang mandate sa amin, lahat ng bisita ng Siargao na hindi taga dito, kailangan ma-sure mo na walang sakit,” he shared. To do this, Dr. TJ and a small team of nurses, along with a surveillance officer, went around the island to check every accommodation and make sure no one was sick with the virus. Imagine the effort that job alone demanded from such a small team of frontliners! The same team was also on top of moitoring Covid cases along with contact tracing.


    They also had to deal with stranded tourists—some were suffering from anxiety and other psychological problems. “‘Yung anxiety nung entire thing, ‘yung anxiety ng lahat ng nangyayari, ti-nry naming i-address,” he revealed.

    Dr. TJ said they would constantly update the community during town hall meetings by telling them what they’re currently facing, what can possibly happen, and what they’re going to do about it.

    Beyond the serene beaches, the bayanihan spirit in Siargao ushered healing

    Dr. TJ said the community also stepped up and found ways to help each other during the first few months of the pandemic.

    Hotels and accommodations that closed offered “drives” or help to anyone in need while some residents opened community kitchens on vacant lots and did their best to follow government mandates and protocols. “Ang dami sa GL (General Luna) na tumulong and it made our jobs a lot easier,” Dr. Tj recalled.

    The sense of community in Siargao made it easier for the residents and the healthcare workers there to manage the stress brought about by the pandemic.

    Watch the full video here:

    How do you deal with pandemic stress? Share it in the comment section.

    Subscribe to Summit OG here.

    Watch more OG videos here.

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