Karen Laurrie Mendoza: Miss Iloilo, Mental Health Advocate
“I truly believe that there’s no health without mental health.” 2021 Miss Iloilo, Karen Laurrie Mendoza, finishes her piece with a beaming smile and a ray of conviction, presenting her advocacy in big, bold letters— MENTAL HEALTH LITERACY.
Born and raised in Concepcion, Iloilo, this island beauty has learned the ways of the waves from a very young age; her family instilling in her valuable survival skills, such as fishing, gleaning shells during low tide, and setting up traps in the shore for what would be their dinner. Everyday life was that simple.
Growing up, Karen has learned important values that would set her on a personal mission to create social change. And as it so turns out, it was through the world of designer evening gowns, snappy q & a’s, and jeweled crowns that she found her voice as well as the platform to amplify it.
Karen reveals how mental health literacy came to be her advocacy and why it is so important that we have this topic embedded in our education systems. “Last 2017, I fell into depression, and this is one of the reasons why I am advocating for it. I want to destigmatize mental health and achieve my goal to include mental health literacy in the country's curriculum.”
In a 2020 survey conducted by WHO, almost 4 million Filipinos are suffering from such illnesses, be it mental, neurological, or based on substance use—and this only accounts for diagnosed cases.
The current pandemic has rendered so many of us powerless in many ways, and we can only do so much to cope with the brewing negativity. These numbers are, in fact, more than just statistics; these are real people fighting their own silent battles. To some of them, there is no cure but one, and that is kindness. Rather than responding with a generic “Think positive!” or “Everything’s fine!”, listen, lend a helping hand, and choose to be kind.
Karen takes pride in representing her beloved hometown in many ways—as the reigning Miss Iloilo on the road to the Binibining Pilipinas stage and as an influencer promoting her favorite Ilonggo products and accessories. A testament to her kindness and unwavering love for her heritage, she would choose talented, young Ilonggo artists and designers to be on her team, exhibiting Ilonggo pride in all the ways she can and promoting local brands while she’s at it.
Today’s society is far too different from many years ago; safe spaces were close to non-existent and people have very limited knowledge on how to deal with mental illnesses. We still have a ways to go before completely destroying the stigma that paints the mentally challenged in a bad light, but thanks to mental health advocates like Karen, our 2021 Miss Iloilo and Modela Filipina, we’re getting there.
Let us show support for our kind and beautiful Miss Iloilo in her Binibining Pilipinas journey as she advocates for taking mental health awareness into our schools.
Karen Laurrie Mendoza