Volunteer groups to be formed for Filipina domestic helpers with depression

Amid continuing reports of Filipina domestic helpers suffering from depression and committing suicide,  the Department of Social Welfare and Development plans to form groups of volunteers in Hong Kong which will help overseas Filipino workers cope with emotional distress as well as address mental health problems.

Social welfare attache Elizabeth Lim Dy told Hong Kong News on Dec.29 that they plan to establish groups covering Kowloon, New Kowloon, Hong Kong Island and New Territories. “We want to train a group of volunteers from the community side who will help provide advise and refer cases of depression to us,” she said.

“The main criterion for the volunteers is willingness,” she said.

Depression has been a major cause of concern among domestic workers. There have been at least three cases of Filipina domestic helpers who committed suicide in 2019.

Dy said they will start with organizations such as Domestic Workers Corner Hong Kong, which has already organized sessions for domestic workers experiencing depression. DWC formed HOPE, a platform which helps connect domestic workers with the Social Welfare Office and other government authorities who can provide them the necessary guidance and assistance in dealing with depression.

Aside from groups, Dy said individuals can also try and take part in the initiative.

“Kahit individuals, basta willing, puwede sumali,” Dy said.

“Think about yourself too”

Dy said Filipina domestic workers often experience depression mainly due to family problems.

“Family issues, how these affect the children, child support. The social costs of migration. These are often the reasons for stress and depression,” Dy said.

While the volunteer groups are underway, she said domestic workers can better manage stress and emotional problems on their own by also thinking about their own welfare.

“Aanhin pa ang damo kung patay na ang kabayo? (What good is the grass if the horse is already dead?)?” she said.

This was the question she posed to Filipina domestic helpers who attended a session on handling depression on Dec.29 at the Philippine Consulate General in Admiralty.

“When I asked the participants today, for example, what made you want to work in Hong Kong? Their common answer is: I did this for my family,” she said.

“It’s not for yourself, it’s always about your family. But how can you help your family if you cannot help yourself?” she asked.

Dy reminded domestic helpers that they had to think about their wellbeing too, and part of taking care of themselves is knowing what their rights are.

This is part of the coping skills which Dy imparted to Filipino workers. “Kung puro ito, emosyon, ‘di mo na nagamit utak mo, bagsak mo depression,” she explained.

“Pero kung maiisip mo dahilan ng problema mo, ang tugon dun mismo ay ang pag-iisip ng anong puwede mong gawin, ng mga batas na tutulong sa yo,” she said.

“If your spouse cheated on you, may batas tayo na tutulong sa ‘yo, may batas tayo against adultery. What we can do is to help you na maipagpatuloy ang kaso sa bansa natin. Matutulungan ka rin namin na alamin ano ba ang mga batas tungkol sa usaping child support.”

“May mga karapatan ka, may batas. We can give you the knowledge you need about them. These will be the resources you can use so you’ll be able to know how to fight.”