PLDT, Smart embrace mental wellness in pandemic, empowering youth to speak up


Amid dark and difficult times, the Filipino people’s resilience and camaraderie have built a more empathic culture and safer spaces online. With the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health becomes a prevalent issue that affects everyone. PLDT and Smart, through its collaborative initiative and platform Better Today, recently partnered with #MentalHealthPH, one of the country’s largest mental health advocacy groups, to drive conversations on mental health awareness.

The recent #UsapTayo session, which was a special collaboration between PLDT and Smart and #MentalHealthPH, generated over 20-million impressions online and have been participated by over 600 people.
“Our Better Today program serves as a platform for our stakeholders to be part of the conversations on mental health awareness. We recognize that a lot of our stakeholders are our consumers, including today’s youth – our Generation Z (Gen Z). Through Better Today, we are giving our stakeholders a chance to go beyond themselves and help out the larger community,” said PLDT AVP and Head for Government Relations Jose Lukban Rosete.

#UsapTayo is a regular tweet chat happening every zero of the month (every 10th, 20th, 30th) that aims to ZERO the suicide cases and stigma against mental health. The platform talks about everything from the lived experiences of people with mental ill-health and the impacts of current events on people’s mental wellness.

Through #MentalHealthPH’s four-year-long #UsapTayo campaign, real life stories of people whose lives have been changed and impacted by the global pandemic are heard via Twitter conversations. In the social media platform’s Tweet Chat and Twitter Spaces, the participants shared their thoughts on how the pandemic shaped the hopes and dreams of today’s Gen Z. The campaign also talked about the youth’s experiences of online learning and how the digital technology affected the way they perceive the use of social media.

During the session, #UsapTayo core group member and Gen Z student leader Tobey Calayo shared how social media used to be a comfortable space which he can turn to for rest and recreation. With the pandemic uprooting people’s lives, Calayo finds the use of social media in a grey area where rest and work have been blurred.

Calayo also underscored the importance of the hopes and aspirations of his generation as he talked about the dreams of the youth to have a more reliable system and a society that works towards fighting for the world, which the youth will inherit.

The community plays a big role in helping raise mental health awareness, especially when it comes to creating a support system and a safe space for people to come together and openly share their stories and experiences.

John Demdam, who is the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) Chairperson of Barangay Calumpang and SK Federation President of General Santos City (GenSan), shared his experiences as a youth leader and advocate. According to Demdam, there are various efforts launched by the youth government organization in addressing the societal issues of today’s youth – from raising mental health awareness and creating policies that help sustain these advocacies.

Most recently, Demdam shared the culmination of GenSan SK’s week-long ‘Linggo ng Kabataan’, which focused on programs that are catered to support the youth, including a talk series on several topics such as job readiness, voter’s education, food security and mental health.

TV personality and Fitness enthusiast Vince Velasco also joined the #UsapTayo session by sharing how fitness can enhance one’s mental resilience and over-all well-being. According to Velasco, fitness is all about empowerment. It’s enabling people to take steps towards their goal. Fitness gives people an opportunity to make themselves better every day, especially when it comes to strengthening their mental resilience, building self-confidence and advocating for self-care and self-love.

According to the article published by the World Health Organization (WHO) in September last year, mental health conditions account for 16% of the global burden of disease and injury in people aged 10-19 years. The study says that suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among teenagers aged 15-19-year-olds. The WHO also states that globally, depression is one of the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents.

Mental health is real and it is an issue that affects everyone. PLDT and Smart, through its Better Today initiative, aim to destigmatize and address mental health issues by raising mental health awareness. By creating inter-generational conversations on mental health and wellness, PLDT and Smart help contribute in building safer spaces online and a culture of empathy in the digital world.

Better Today is PLDT and Smart’s collaborative platform for promoting wellness, safe spaces, and changemaking in the digital world. The program emphasizes the companies’ commitment to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), particularly UN SDG #3: Good Health and Well-Being.


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Gabriel

Introvert, wanderer, blogger, foodie, a hip-hop music writer, and one of the co-founders of a tech start-up company called GigsManila.