• The San Juan Daily Star

Governor launches depression awareness campaign

Carlos Rodríguez Mateo, head of the Mental Health and Anti-Addiction Services Administration

By John McPhaul

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia announced earlier this week, along with the head of the Mental Health and Anti-Addiction Services Administration (ASSMCA by its Spanish initials), Carlos Rodríguez Mateo, the launch of a project to raise awareness on depression and suicide.

“The effort that we announce today is the result of an alliance between ASSMCA and this great Puerto Rican artist to continue promoting optimal and strengthened emotional health,” Pierluisi said at a press conference on Tuesday, referring to singer-songwriter Christian Daniel. “Our goal is to educate citizens about depression and how to overcome it. Likewise, we try to share appropriate tools for managing this disease and for suicide prevention. This government recognizes that mental health requires urgent and priority attention, which is why I allocated some $15 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan to improve mental health services and facilities.”

The project, launched during Mental Health Month, includes announcements and educational material to be shared on social media; talks given by the agency’s professionals along with Christian Daniel in public housing complexes, and public and private schools and universities; in addition to talks with the artist for the general public. The initiative is named after the song “How Do I Do It,” written by Daniel and Claudio Alejandro Cabral Rivas. The song was composed in the midst of Daniel’s depression and during the process of overcoming it.

“I appreciate Christian Daniel’s availability to contribute with his talent to the emotional health of everyone in Puerto Rico,” the governor said.

The project will educate people about depression, as well as highlight the importance of talking about depression and knowing the red flags to seek help. The goal is that through the artist’s testimony and education provided by ASSMCA professionals, people will be able to seek help if they are in depression.

The “How Do I Do It” awareness effort will take place during the months of October and November. The initiative will be a public service of ASSMCA and will not entail additional funds; Daniel is participating in the project voluntarily.

According to the World Health Organization, depression affects at least 264 million people worldwide and is one of the leading causes of disability. In Puerto Rico, depression is one of the prevalent diagnoses in patients treated in ASSMCA service centers. It is an emotional disorder that causes a feeling of deep, constant and prolonged sadness, as well as the loss of interest in participating in a range of activities.

The ASSMCA administrator stated that “depression can knock on anyone’s door, regardless of their sex, race, social class or profession; it contributes significantly to global morbidity and affects women more than men.”

“At worst, it can lead to suicide,” Rodríguez Mateo said. “That is why we want to prevent it and educate people about those signs to which they should pay attention in order to move to seek help.

Some of the most common symptoms that a person suffering from depression presents are a frequently irritable or low mood; difficulty falling asleep or excess sleep; weight gain or loss; fatigue and lack of energy; feelings of worthlessness, self-hatred and guilt; difficulty focusing; slow or fast movements; inactivity and withdrawal from usual activities; feelings of hopelessness or abandonment; repetitive thoughts of death or suicide; and loss of pleasure in activities that often make the person happy, including sexual activity.

Daniel stated that “like every human being, I have also gone through hard times in life.”

“I wrote ‘How Do I Do It’ in one of those moments when life hit me and depression knocked on my door,” he said. “However, the important thing and what I want to share with people is that they cannot give up. If you fight and seek the right help, you can overcome depression and everything else you face in your life. I did it and you can do it too.”

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