Hopeline hotlines 02-804-HOPE (4673); 0917-558-HOPE (4673); or 2919 (toll-free number for Globe and TM subscribers). 

Did you know every 40 seconds, someone dies of suicide? The World Health Organization (WHO) states that close to 800 000 people died by suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds. We cannot avoid reading about suicide in our social media news feeds or private group chats. Let me point out the phrases “died of suicide” or “died by suicide” as neutral ways to explain the death. These phrases replace “committed suicide” or “completed suicide.” 

Social media use and depression

 Growing evidence showed that social media can influence pro-suicide behavior. The 2012 study on “Social Media and Suicide: A Public Health Perspective” (David D. Luxton, PhD, Jennifer D. June, BA, and Jonathan M. Fairall, BS) cited the role social media, might have in suicide-related behavior. The rise of pro-suicide, social media sites may pose a new risk to vulnerable people who might not have been exposed to these potential hazards. Media also plays an influence on suicidal behavior, and suicide methods used. Cyberbullying and cyber harassment are prevalent problems. An increase in publicized cases of suicide in 2011 involved social media. 

Another paper came out on “Increases in Depressive Symptoms, Suicide-Related Outcomes, and Suicide Rates Among U.S. Adolescents After 2010 and Links to Increased New Media Screen Time” (Jean M. Twenge, Thomas E. Joiner, Megan L. Rogers, Gabrielle N. Martin) in 2017. The study discovered that adolescents who devoted more time online such as social media were more likely to report mental health issues. Psychiatrist Dr Dinah Nadera says “that sense of lack of social connectedness is very, very prevalent…. They’re connected but they can’t seem to have a trusted person”.  Without experimental evidence, one is unclear that the rise in new media screen time causes the increase in mental health issues after 2011. Three earlier studies, however, provided evidence that “screen time in social media use, may cause depressed mood rather than vice versa, at least among adults.”  The research concludes that adolescent mental health issues rose since 2010, among females. New media screen time is both associated with mental health issues and increased over this time period.

The relationship between social media use and depression remains a controversial topic. A study in 2018 by San Francisco-based social innovation group called HopeLab did not find a correlation between use and self-reported depressive symptoms. Despite the lack of conclusive studies, I cannot stress enough that our digital well-being matters. It is best to disconnect when called for and create healthy habits for ourselves.

 WHO says suicides are preventable

There is hope. WHO believes suicide is preventable with timely, evidence-based and often low-cost interventions. We need a comprehensive multisectoral suicide prevention strategy for national responses to be effective. This is where Mental Health Law (RA No. 11036) comes in. The law provides affordable and accessible mental health services to Filipinos if implemented well.

Social networking sites for suicide prevention can facilitate social connections among peers with similar experiences. Know of legitimate sites to increase awareness of prevention programs, crisis help lines, and other support and educational resources. A Facebook page called “Anxiety and Depression Support Philippines” (ADSP) is a mental health support group run by volunteers. The page has closed Facebook group where people can vent their feelings, meet new people, ask questions without judgments. 

Natasha Goulbourn Foundation (http://www.ngf-hope.org) started Hopeline, a depression and suicide prevention hotline to help those suffering from depression. The numbers to call are ?02-804-4673 and ?0917-558-4673. Globe and TM subscribers may call the toll-free number 2919. 

10 years ago, I added a Suicide Prevention page (https://aboutmyrecovery.com/suicide-prevention/) in my blog to save a life. What if each one of us do their share in saving a life by educating ourselves and our community? Let us take advantage of current suicide news to educate people and/or ourselves about suicide and mental health instead of spreading hate and fueling stigma. Use social media for good.

 Suicide prevention is everybody’s business

ADSP warns about sharing any photos and videos that describes the suicide and self-harm related content. Why? It could trigger other mental health warriors. It could encourage copycat self-harming or suicide. None of us can fathom their pain so let’s stop judging people who suffer from depression. Stigma, surrounding mental disorders and suicide, means many people thinking of taking their own life or who have attempted suicide are not seeking help and not getting the help they need. By raising awareness and educating the public, we can SAVE lives. A person talking about how they feel reduces their distress; they also see other options and are much less likely to attempt to suicide. Talking the situation over with a caring person helps whether you’re in a crisis yourself, or worried about someone else who is.  You don’t have to wait until the deepest point of crisis or until you have a life-threatening problem before you seek help.  

 Hopeline hotlines 02-804-HOPE (4673); 0917-558-HOPE (4673); or 2919 (toll-free number for Globe and TM subscribers). The Department of Health manages the Hopeline. Support is out there. 

First published at Sunday Times and IT on January 19, 2019

Technology inside the classroom is not a new idea. Even though technology progresses, the message is relevant. I came in an era of filmstrip projectors, copy machines, tape recorders, cassette players and television sets. Then VCRs, CD players, DVD players and a myriad of other tools came along. These are forms of technology that have aided teachers and enhanced instruction in the past. Today, Virtual reality (VR) is the future of education. Students will enjoy VR-enabled textbooks and virtual classrooms soon.

The skepticism of VR on our kids is a concern. I dealt with the same apprehension when I first introduced my children to the internet in 1995. The decision to make technology a healthy and positive part of family life was to embrace it. I learned to educate myself about it and go hands-on with new devices, apps, social networks and services wherever accessible.

virtual reality classrooms

Image from commonsense.org. Some rights reserved.

A Common Sense research in 2018, titled “Virtual Reality 101: What You Need to Know About Kids and VR,” helps bring clarity by summing up the existing body of studies. The report was co-authored with researchers at Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab. Virtual Reality 101 “explores the potential positive and negative effects of VR experiences on kids’ cognitive, social, and physical well-being and its potential to shape young people’s perspectives.” It pays to understand the risks and benefits of VR. Key findings of the paper show:

1. VR is likely to have powerful effects on children because it can provoke a response to virtual experiences similar to a response to actual experiences.

2. The long-term effects of children’s use of immersive VR on their still-developing brains and health are unknown, but most parents are concerned, and experts advocate moderation and supervision.

3. Only one in five US parents (21 percent) today report living in a household with VR, and the majority (65 percent) are not planning to purchase VR hardware. However, the interest levels of US children are high, while parent interest is mixed.

4. Characters in VR may be influential on young children, even more so than characters on TV or computers. This can be good or bad depending on the influence.

5. Students often feel more enthusiasm for learning while using VR, but they do not necessarily learn more through VR than through video or computer games.

6. VR can potentially be an effective tool for encouraging empathy among children, though most parents are skeptical.

7. When choosing VR content, parents should consider whether they would want their children to have the same experience in the real world.

virtual reality classrooms

Image via Commonsense.org.

VR is evolving and schools and households will embrace this technology in the coming years. It is critical for parents and educators to understand VR’s dynamic effects, as there are not enough studies on how this immersive medium affects a child’s developing brain. More than half of the parents surveyed in this report said they are at least “somewhat concerned” that their children will experience negative health effects while using VR. There is a need for caution with its usage by young children. VR manufacturers have been careful to recognize that the effects of VR on toddlers and the risks are unknown. Except for VR devices targeted toward child users, most companies suggest that children below 12 years old should not use them. The study recommends that adult participants use VR for only 20 minutes at a time without a break. When the lab studies young kids, they are in VR for five minutes or less at any one time to avoid simulator sickness.

As a parent confronted with the internet and personal computers in the mid-nineties, I prefer that my children read a book, or play volleyball than vegetate in front of the computer. Internet and computers were not available in the classrooms. But I thought the internet can have a place at home and I took the risk of exposing them to this technology before it got introduced in their classrooms. Though I don’t have young kids at home. I continue to immerse in new technologies even buying a standalone virtual reality headset to understand the risks and benefits to children. It can be safe, uplifting and a wonderful part of kids’ lives if spent wisely, together with other balanced and healthy daily activities.

You can download the full report “Virtual Reality 101: What You Need to Know About Kids and VR,” at Commonsensemedia.org. Common Sense is the leading independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology.

“Whether or not you realize it, you’re setting up a digital trail for your children that can last through their lifetime, and you’re doing it without your permission”

Psychological implications of growing up without anonymity

oversharentingCutesy photos may be harmless now, but they might pose a problem in years to come. This is why experts strongly recommend making sure that whatever images or anecdotes parents post are things their children will feel comfortable with later in life.

“Whether or not you realize it, you’re setting up a digital trail for your children that can last through their lifetime, and you’re doing it without your permission,” Greenberg says.

Kathryn Tuggle of Main Street explains that children can also be very sensitive about their appearance during their tween years. “If you post photos of your child during an ‘ugly duckling’ phase, you could be setting them up for self-esteem issues in the future.”

Another danger is “branding” your child. If you continually post pictures of them crying or clinging to you with captions like, “He’s so cranky,” or “She’s so shy,” it’s also possible you could be shaping your children’s perception of themselves. Hence, think about what’s best for your child, not you, the next time you log on to social media.

To read more about privacy setting pluses and the problems with privacy settings, click here.


Sharing too much information about one’s kids online has become too commonplace that according to Time, a term has already been coined for this: oversharenting. It is understandable that parents would want to share the growth and development of their children, but there’s also a fine line between posting family pictures and cutesy photos of baby’s first bath. You never know where your kid’s pictures might end up someday.

“Anytime you post anything on social media, you’re losing a little bit of control over what happens to that image,” says clinical psychologist Barbara Greenberg through Main Street. “There are people out there who are bad. There are stalkers and malicious people who can take your pictures and put them on sites where heads end up on other people’s bodies… Socially isolated people who spend all day on Facebook stalking people, who get turned on by children,” Greenberg adds, emphasizing how as parents, we have to think about how much we’re going to post.

Joining the bandwagon is never a good reason to post something. “There may be pressure to show off your baby, but you don’t have to join that club. It’s always your decision.”

What you can do

Some parents go to extreme measures of literally posting nothing about their kids at all, but for those who still want to share photos or videos of their beautiful brood to some extent online, here are some tips that might be helpful:

  • If you shall decide to keep your child off social media, cull your friend list and let them know about your intention of doing so.
  • You may also use a pet name, rather than your child’s real name, to afford him/her some protection against companies or individuals who might be interested in your child’s personal data.
  • Avoid tagging your child’s photos on Facebook lest you want to the facial recognition tool to work on him/her.
  • Lock down your privacy settings to prevent strangers from viewing your pictures and posts.
  • Lastly, and most importantly, use the internet consciously and in a way that is effective and positive for your life.


Here are other interesting and worthwhile reads on sharing about your child on social media:

*“Mother and Child Reflected” by William Pitcher, courtesy of Flickr. 


written by Edel Cayetano as originally posted at the Philippine Online Chronicles


It is just the two of us, the four cats and our trusted helpers as we got ready to welcome the New Year. Listening to Auld Lang Syne and tooting our horns, my husband and I reflected what we needed to focus this year and let bygones be bygones. The end of a year often signals new beginnings. Auld Lang Syne is traditionally sung at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve in Scotland and around the world, especially in English-speaking countries. My husband loves to listen to this song. Listen:

As we tooted our horns, our boxer howled along with us as if saying Goodbye 2018. We were so amused at our dog’s howling.

I thought we would just hear the tooting of horns but instead, the sound of firecrackers from the neighbors surprised us all. We waited for 2019 to arrive, and cheered the New Year along with our toast of sparkling juice.

The next day, I was so excited to write on page 1 of my new planner. Its pages are still blank. I know I am going to put words on them myself in the coming days. Yes, this is a book called “Make today magical” and its first chapter is New Year’s Day. I scribbled a note on January 1, 2019 and greeted everyone a happy new year . The 2019 Belle De Jour Power Planner is usually used by the young ones. I don’t care. It is cute and I love the food for thought — usually something inspirational, partnered with pretty artwork.

When I wonder what is coming, I tell myself the best is coming, the very best in life has to to offer, the best God will send and claim it as mine.

Happy New Year, everyone. A blessing becomes a blessing when spoken. So I declare that you are blessed with a loving family, good health, faith, favor, promotion and provision. A blessed New Year to you and your family!