UNPOPULAR OPINION: Has there been an increase in teenage depression and suicide in recent years?

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Depression and suicide among teens is currently a popular topic in my social media newsfeed due to the recently-released Netflix series “13 Reasons Why”. Some people have been praising its frankness and honesty in dealing with the topic while others felt that the series failed to show that there is a way for teens who are contemplating suicide to get help. I have not seen the show yet but I have read the book so I’ll probably share my thoughts on this debate later on in this post.

For now, I’m going to talk about my own personal experiences and struggles. (DISCLAIMER: Clinically speaking, I do not have depression because I have not been diagnosed by any mental health professionals.)

There are times in my life where I’ve felt empty–like everything I used to love doing suddenly became meaningless and tedious, like nothing I do would make any difference in the world, like my life had no purpose and that I had nothing else left to live for. This feeling–this intense, overwhelming feeling of helplessness and isolation–would come and go. At times, It’d last for only a day but sometimes it’d span weeks and months. This has been going on ever since I was in high school.

Now, I have not been diagnosed by any mental health professionals because I have not sought them out, mostly because I can function well enough but also because I feel like my problems aren’t big enough to warrant therapy and/or serious professional help. I can cope somewhat well enough on my own.

To my surprise, whenever I’d try opening up about how I feel to my peers, a lot of them have felt the same way. Some peers of mine have even been actually diagnosed with clinical depression. A lot of them have seriously contemplated suicide.

The frequency of cases I’ve personally encountered coupled with posts/accounts I’ve read online got me to start believing that depression and suicidal ideation among Filipino millennials is a lot more common than adults care to admit. Why is this happening?

One Psychology professor of mine seems baffled by this phenomenon as well. He posted on Facebook that he has been encountering teen depression cases a lot more frequently and he wondered why this was going on. People commented on his post (most of them adults). Some of them said that this was a generational thing–that previous generations have also had mental health problems but were simply taught proper coping mechanisms, unlike today’s teens. Others have suggested that it was due to social media and teens’ lack of exercise.

In an interview with The Philippine Star, Dr. Violeta Bautista, a clinical psychologist and the director of the University of the Philippines (UP) Office of Counseling and Guidance, gave her opinion on the reason why there seems to be such an increase in teen suicide. She said:

“Globalization exposes young people to different lifestyles, beliefs… there is no ready, available person to help process such information. Parents are busy. OFW is not bad, but if there is no creative response to the challenge of parents being absent, then children are adversely affected; it really becomes a problem when both parents leave for overseas work. New developments, such as LGBT, are not matched with education that helps teens understand and deal with actual-life challenges. The pace of life is also faster, with higher demands on children. Technology speeds up life, makes learning more challenging, and young people need to keep pace. Old values are being challenged and there are not enough venues for intelligent and health discussions.”

In my opinion, teens nowadays may not necessarily be more prone to depression than previous generations. It’s just that people weren’t as open about discussing mental health issues back then as they are now because of the stigma attached to those who experience such problems and the previous generations’ lack of awareness on the subject matter. Then again, I also believe that there is some truth in what my Psychology professor and Dr. Bautista have said. There may be some facets of millennial culture that directly and indirectly contribute to greater increase in teenage depression.

Much like Dr. Bautista, I also believe that greater globalization has affected how teens today view things. One such view is the Western idea that “anyone can achieve anything as long as you work hard” which is a contrast to the more Filipino viewpoint that “some things are out of your control so just leave it to God“. This may be why this generation’s teens are more sensitive to rejection, conflict & failure. We have been led to believe that our failure is our problem and ours alone, not the product of circumstances beyond our control or other variables in the situation.

Now, let’s get back to “13 Reasons Why” and its depiction of teenage suicide. I believe that there is truth in both sides of the debate. The book does indeed fail at showing that there are ways for depressed teens to get help. On the other hand, I also feel that this book was not written for the purpose of getting depressed teens to seek out professional help but as a way for not-depressed teens to develop greater empathy for those who are experiencing depression and to become more mindful of their words and actions toward their peers. I believe that there should be room in our culture for these kind of books but there also should be more books written for the purpose of helping depressed teens find help.

Whatever the reason may be for the seeming increase in teenage depression and suicide (whether there are thirteen reasons or only one), what we really need to do is find a way to help those who are experiencing this. As my professor once pointed out, theory without action is virtually meaningless.

 

(P.S. DOH has launched a suicide prevention hotline. The hotline may be reached at (02) 804-4637; 0917-5584673; and 2919 for Globe and TM subscribers.)

 

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“Beauty and the Beast” (2017): A Tale As Old As Time Gets A Modern Update

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If I were to be fully honest, I wasn’t too keen on seeing this new “Beauty and the Beast” remake. This was mostly because the original animated Disney movie is one of my all-time favorite films. I already thought that the original was the greatest–the songs, the characters, the visuals, everything about that movie was amazing! So when I heard that Disney planned on making a live-action version of the classic, my reaction was… let’s just say “far from enthusiastic”.

Anyway, now that I’ve actually seen the film… I’m happy to say that I really liked it! Was it different enough from the original? No. Was it really necessary? Not really. Was it enjoyable? Definitely yes!

Here’s what I loved about 2017’s Beauty and the Beast: Though it is about 85% similar to the animated movie, it managed to add in more details that I felt brought greater depth to the characters. For instance, (spoilers ahead!) in the original animated movie, there was no stated reason for why Mrs. Potts, Lumiere, Cogsworth and the other castle staff were included in the curse. In this movie, we are told that it is because, since they pretty much helped to raise the prince after his mother’s death but only stood idly by while his father taught him to be vain and cruel, they were indirectly responsible for how he turned out as an adult.

I thought that was an interesting detail to add. Not only does it resolve a plot hole in the original, it also adds layers to the castle staff’s plight. In the original, it seemed as though the castle staff only helped the Beast gain Belle’s affection in order to get out of their curse. But in this movie, the castle staff’s efforts to help the Beast seemed more like a genuine effort to not only help the Beast become a better person but also to make right the fact that they did not help the prince while he was still a vulnerable little boy.

Another detail I enjoyed was the fact that they added more scenes of Beast and Belle bonding. In the original movie, even though I do love that film, Beast and Belle’s emotional connection felt a bit too sudden for me. One moment she’s running away from him, then after he saves her from wolves, they’re already in love. In this film, I was happy to see little moments of intimacy like them connecting over books they’ve both read, their childhood memories, and their shared status as outsiders in their respective homes.

Emma Watson was, predictably, great as Belle. Despite not being the best singer, she brings a real spunk to the role. Dan Stevens’ Beast was also very well done. The actor was best at selling the Beast’s more vulnerable side. All of the supporting cast (like Kevin Kline, Emma Thompson, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen) were spot-on (though Ewan McGregor’s French accent was a bit iffy).

Overall, I thought it was a solid modern update on the classic tale. Though I still feel like it was an unnecessary remake, it did manage to add a lot of new details that I thought worked very well. Go see it!

Note to Self: Keep Going

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Dear you,

Yes, YOU! I know it is much easier said than done but KEEP GOING.

Keep going even though you feel like a failure. You are not. Just because you’ve stumbled once or twice doesn’t mean that you’ll never be able to stand back up again.

Keep going even though you don’t know where you are headed. Life is a labyrinth–full of twists and turns. And although you are unsure of what’s in store for you at the end, you must continue moving forward.

Keep going even though you feel like the world is conspiring against you. Yes, there are things in life that we cannot control… but there are things that we can change. We each are given different burdens in life and we must learn to deal with the cards we’re dealt.

Keep going even though you feel like you can’t. Things do get better even though it doesn’t seem that way from where you’re standing right now.

Keep going. Life is a battlefield but it’s one you can win.

Keep going. I believe in you.

Being an Introvert in a World of Extroverts

Introvert Adventures

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It can often be tiring to be an introverted person in this world that favors extroverts.

There are times wherein people doubt your intelligence just because you don’t speak up too often about your ideas… like that time back when you were in  school where you got a lower grade than you were expecting  because, despite high marks in all your exams and papers, you didn’t “participate enough” in class.

There are times where people think you are antisocial just because you find it hard to initiate conversations… like that time at a party where you felt out-of-place and you felt anxious about talking to people you didn’t really know all that well.

There are times when people think that you don’t care enough about things just because you aren’t all that comfortable with expressing yourself by talking… like those times when people would try debating with you face-to-face when…

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Feeling is not a weakness

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Allow yourself to feel the pain,

The hurt,

The frustration,

The disappointment.

Immerse yourself in the pool of your sorrows

But do not let yourself drown.

Cry when you stumble

But do not forget to stand again.

Process your disappointment

Without forgetting to move forward.

Do not conceal the pain inside you

Because the pain is a signal of change and of growth.

Embrace the uncertainty that comes with life’s ups and downs.

Feeling is not a weakness but a sign that you are alive.

Ranking ALL the X-Men movies

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The X-Men films are unique among all the superhero franchises. This is, first and foremost, due to the fact that this is the longest running superhero franchise. Back in 2000, when the first X-Men movie came out, superhero movies were scarce. Flash-forward to today (2017), things are vastly different.

Back then, only popular heroes like Superman, Batman and Spider-man got big screen adaptations but nowadays even more obscure heroes like Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, and the Guardians of the Galaxy get to have their moment in the sun. It is a testament to the enduring appeal of Marvel’s mutant family that even in today’s crowded superhero movie landscape, they  remain relevant. The X-Men franchise does this by doing what no other superhero franchise has done yet–evolve.

So, in honor of Hugh Jackman and Sir Patrick Stewart’s final outing as Wolverine and Professor X, respectively, I thought I’d rank all ten of the X-films (so far)!

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#10: X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

Hugh Jackman’s first solo movie as the iconic character was, for me, the messiest film in the franchise which is sad because there are a lot of good elements in it. Hugh Jackman’s in fine form, as always. Liev Schreiber does great work as Sabretooth. Ryan Reynolds is fun as Wade Wilson, though this film butchers Deadpool (Thankfully, we all know that the studio would get him right the second time around).

The montage at the beginning of the film, showing Logan and Victor participating in all the world wars, was fantastic. And it really is a shame that the rest of the film couldn’t be as epic as those first few minutes.

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#9: X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

While I don’t necessarily think that Apocalypse is a bad movie, it is a very forgettable one. I’ve seen the movie twice and even as I rack my brain, I can’t remember much about it apart from a few great moments that stood out for me–like (spoiler alert!) Magneto’s wife and child being killed, Quicksilver’s funny slow motion scene (that seemed to only be there because of how much people liked the similar scene that happened in Days of Future Past and not because it was actually needed in the movie), and Logan’s brief (bloody, badass) cameo.

Anyway, the X-kids are pretty cool but they didn’t get enough to do. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender continue to be excellent as Professor X and Magneto while Jennifer Lawrence sort of seemed bored as Mystique. I’d just skip re-watching this one on my next X-Men marathon.

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#8: X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

Most X-Men fans hate this one because of how it handled classic comic book storylines like the Dark Phoenix saga and the Mutant Cure… but I enjoyed it as its own thing. It is a very entertaining though overstuffed movie.

I do think that it fails at giving justice to some of its main characters. Jean Grey, despite being at the center of the main plot, was not given any agency as a character. She spent the entire movie being manipulated and used by the other characters and, in the end, she didn’t even get to sacrifice her own life, instead Logan killed her to save the others… which really is a shame because Jean Grey in the comics and the various animated series was always shown as a smart, capable hero in her own right. Rogue and Mystique also had their powers taken away. And Cyclops was unceremoniously killed off.

So… yeah. This movie had problems.

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#7: The Wolverine (2013)

Wolverine’s second solo outing was a lot better than the first. Unlike the first solo movie, The Wolverine had a much tighter plot, interesting themes, and some more dynamic supporting characters like Mariko, Yukio, and Yashida. My biggest complaint about this movie is that the first 2/3rds of the movie were excellent and the last act felt like it came from a different movie altogether.

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#6: X-Men (2000)

As far as first installments go, the first film in the X-Men franchise is a solid, cerebral take on Marvel’s mutant heroes. It does a good job of setting the tone for future films, introducing the characters and the world they inhabit, and it does a magnificent job of hammering home its themes about prejudice and discrimination.

The only reason I put this on the lower end of the list is because some of the next movies were able to expand on and improve all the themes and plots set up in this first one.

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#5: X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Though many fans believe this to be the best X-Men movie, I’ve decided to place it at fifth. Now, don’t get me wrong… Days of Future Past is super fun and enjoyable. The time travel plot was used well. And, for a movie which was (let’s be real here) only really made in order to fix the continuity errors in the previous films, it’s pretty great! It’s definitely the most comic book-y X-Men film (aside from Deadpool).

BUT… and this is my personal opinion, the scenes set in the future were pretty boring and didn’t really hold up to the fun scenes set in the past. Also, why did they waste Ian McKellen in this movie??? He didn’t do anything. As a matter of fact, none of the future mutants, aside from Wolverine and Professor X, really contributed to the main plot… which is just a waste of so much potential.

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#4: X2: X-Men United (2003)

Of all the X-films, I’d say X2 is my favorite. There are just so many excellent moments in this one like Magneto’s escape from his plastic prison, Nightcrawler’s attack in the White House, Jean Grey’s sacrifice… The cast was wonderful, the story was thematically-rich (although similar in many ways to the first one), and the action sequences were top-notch.

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#3: Deadpool (2016)

Deadpool is definitely the most unique film in the franchise. Unlike the other X-films which are all serious and moody, Deadpool doesn’t take itself seriously AT ALL. It is very funny, irreverent and FRESH. This movie’s willingness to poke fun at the very franchise it is housed in is part of its appeal (“I’m taking you to the professor!” “McAvoy or Stewart? These timelines are so confusing!”). Its other secret weapon is Ryan Reynolds’ awesome performance. Definitely looking forward to the sequel!

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#2: X-Men: First Class (2011)

In my personal opinion, of all the X-Men films, First Class was the one that was most able to capture the feel of the original comic books and the ’80s animated series.

Here are the reasons why I loved it: Well, first of all, I’m a sucker for origin stories, so seeing how Professor X, Magneto, Mystique, Beast, and the rest of the gang came to be the way they were in the first three movies was, for me, a sight to behold. Second, it was very well-paced, largely fun and greatly entertaining. Third, it is also helped me to forget the rather dull Wolverine and Last Stand movies. Lastly, where else will you be able to watch a young Charles Xavier using his mutant power to hit on girls or young Magneto hunting down Nazis? This movie is awesome, is what I’m saying.

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#1: Logan (2017)

I don’t want to spoil anything since this movie just recently came out… but I will say that this is definitely the best movie in the X-Men franchise and probably one of the best superhero movies. It has a very mature and grounded plot, and the dark tone works well for the character of Wolverine.

Go see the movie! GO SEE IT RIGHT NOW!!!

 

Well, there you have it… My rankings of all ten X-Men movies so far! Do you agree? Disagree? Please feel free to tell me what you think! BYE!

 

 

“Life is too short to be lived on fast-forward”

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After you’ve read a story, the moments in it that stick to you the most usually happen at the very beginning and at the very end. As someone who loves reading and writing, this happens to me a lot. I can tell you in detail how the story begins… and I can tell you with enthusiasm how the story ends. The things that happen in the middle part of the story may become hazy in my memory.

Real life, as you all very well know, doesn’t really work like this. We don’t really remember where we began. We don’t recall how we were born, what our first words were, how we behaved as babies. We may only know these things from the stories our parents have told us. In the same way, we don’t how, when or why our end will come about. We only know that it’ll happen someday.

Life is one long middle part. And no two stories are the same.

There are times in my life where I feel as if I am getting left behind. A lot of my peers right now are already holding jobs, starting their careers. Some of them are traveling to places I’ve always dreamed of going to. Others have started romantic relationships, and some have even started having their own families.

And here I am, a fresh graduate. Unemployed. Single. No money for traveling.

I’ve been taking time searching for opportunities online, going to events, pondering on and planning my next moves. Every day, I’ve had to remind myself of my life verse Jeremiah 29:11 because it reassures me that God knows how I feel and that He has plans for me and that I shouldn’t be so impatient.

Yet I also feel pressure from well-meaning family members and relatives to move faster. They keep telling me (both directly and indirectly) to get my act together, find a job, find a partner, etc.

Though I agree with their sentiments, I also can’t shake my feelings of helplessness and worry. The jobs I wanted–the jobs I’ve sent my résumé to–have yet to respond. I have yet to find a single person I’d want to start a relationship with (well, I’ve found some but they don’t feel the same way about me haha). I feel like Sisyphus who, as a punishment, has to roll a stone up a hill every day, only to watch the stone slide down the hill before it reaches the peak.

Sometimes I wonder if there’s anything wrong with me, if I’m leveling up too slowly, if I’m normal

Yesterday, my dad, sensing my worries, printed this out for me:

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(I apologize for the quality of the photo. I hope the highlighted parts are still readable though.) The short essay was written by a woman named Jane Timbengan. I don’t know who she is but I see myself in the words she wrote. The part that stuck to me the most was when she said “Do not hurry. Life is too short to be lived on fast-forward.”

And that’s when it hit me. Life is not a book with a clear beginning and end. In books, the story ends as soon as the main character achieves his/her goals, finds what he/she was looking for. But that is not reality.

Life is one long middle part. And no two stories are the same.

Each life is a unique experience. Each life is a different story. Some find happiness early, others find it later in life. One is not better than the other.

We keep comparing our stories to the stories of others. We forget that our story is no less beautiful, no less meaningful, no less essential than theirs.

To my peers, let’s all stop hurrying and enjoy our life as it is in the present.