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School mental health offices sought

February 5, 2023 Camille P. Balagtas 262 views

IN the wake of the rising incidence of Filipino students struggling with mental health issues, the senators said the government must ensure that the necessary program must be implemented considering the rising problem among the youth.

Senator Jose Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada called on the establishment of mental health offices (MHOs) on the campuses of all state universities and colleges (SUCs).

“There have been a lot of studies that have come out on the worsening mental shape of our youth today. Hindi dapat natin itong ipagwalang bahala. Dapat aksyunan ito at solusyunan. Mahalagang pagtuunan ito ng pansin nang hindi na madagdagan pa ang ating mga mag-aaral na depressed,” Estrada said.

The senator cited the World Health Organization (WHO) report on adolescent mental health, which showed suicide as the fourth leading cause of death among adolescents aged 15 to 29 years old.

In the same report, the body said that the consequence of failing to address adolescent mental health conditions extends to adulthood, impairing both physical and mental health and limiting opportunities to lead fulfilling lives as adults.

“Therefore, there is a need to establish MHOs in all our SUCs and to ensure easy access to mental health care for the well-being not only of our vulnerable youth population but the faculty, teaching and non-teaching staff and personnel in the campuses of our SUCs all throughout the country,” Estrada said in his Senate Bill 1508.

Under the measure, all SUCs shall be required to have MHOs on all their campuses and set up campus hotlines with dedicated and trained guidance counselors to provide assistance to students and teaching and non-teaching staff. Special attention shall be given to those identified with mental health problems or conditions, especially those at risk of suicide.

Senator Nancy Binay said the Department of Health must have the right program in the Department of Education as she proposed the need to have available guidance counselors in grade schools.

Binay said a one-on-one session with guidance counselors to discuss mental health and the students career path must be prioritized.

In the hearing of the Committee on Basic Education on Senate Bill No. 379 or the Basic Education Mental Health and Well-being Promotion Act., Education Asst. Sec. Dexter Galban said the mental health program is scattered across the different divisions and strands of the department.

He said the DEPED, through the Bureau of Learner Support Services, has the school health and the school sports and youth formation, all functioning to provide different programs for mental health.

Senator Raffy Tulfo said this fact is actually very alarming.

“We cannot afford to neglect the mental health needs of our children. I urge my colleagues to support SBN 379 insisting that it is the duty of the government to ensure that the children are provided with the necessary support and services to address their mental health needs.” Tulfo said.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian cited the lack of understanding of Filipinos on mental health issues, especially among children.

He noted how the problem became more pronounced during the Covid-19 pandemic, recalling school closures of almost two years.

“That goes to show that a lot of our constituents have a shallow understanding of this disease plaguing our country,” Gatchalian said.