Tokyo PE and AFSJ Call For Greater Attention to Student’s Mental Health

Consul Charmaine A. Serna-Chua and AFSJ President EA Kristine Clarisse Tulin thanked Mr. Michael P. Sy., PhD., for his engaging presentation.

With a growing population of Filipino students navigating their way through Japanese universities, the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo and the Association of Filipino Students in Japan (AFSJ) organized a forum on mental health balance for young people at the ASEAN-Japan Center on June 27, 2019.

Speaking at the forum entitled “Finding Mental Health Balance: A Seminar for Foreign Students and Young Professionals Living in Tokyo,” First Secretary and Consul Charmaine Serna-Chua noted that Filipinos often hesitate to talk about mental health due to the stigma that surrounds mental disorders.

“The negative attitude towards mental health issues is widespread among us Filipinos despite the fact that mental illnesses and suicide cases among young people have increased in the Philippines in the last few years,” she said.

Mr. Michael P. Sy, Ph.D., a health professions educator at the Tokyo Metropolitan University who did his research on substance abuse and addiction, shared that it is common for international students studying in Japanese universities to struggle with feelings of isolation.

“If you are feeling overwhelmed by the stress and loneliness, it’s a fact of life on any college campus. Academic-related pressure coupled with the difficulty of understanding the complex Japanese society can put a toll on the well-being of international students in Japan,” Sy said.

In his presentation, Sy suggested simple stress-relieving practices such as going for a walk or deep breathing. He also encouraged the audience to stay in touch with their families in the Philippines, socialize more with their peers, and choose happiness over despair.

Mr. Michael P. Sy, Ph.D., shared with the audience his experiences as a graduate student as well his tips on surviving the rigors of Japanese universities.

Added Sy, “We are in a foreign country so it is not really easy, but changing the way we respond to stress is what is important.”

The forum concluded with an exchange of ideas among the participants on mental health challenges as well as their proposed creative and actionable solutions to mental stress.

Participants, who were divided into groups after Mr. Sy’s presentation, shared the highlights of theirgroup’s discussion.