Now is the time to talk about the mental health of our teachers

Published August 24, 2020, 6:38 PM

by Jules Vivas

A wellness check online series aired an episode that focused on our educators

THE REALITY Teachers have it rough too, photo from ADB

In this pandemic, every day is a challenge, which is why it is important to promote kindness, to try to understand one another, and to extend a helping hand whenever possible.

Mental health is among the major issues we are faced with, especially among the youth and those already afflicted with or predisposed to mental disorders. Considering the impact of this global health crisis on the education sector, it is timely to discuss the mental health of our teachers.

As F. Sionil Jose puts it, the influence of teachers extends beyond the classroom, well into the future. Now that our educators need help, it is up to us to make sure their future holds.

A grade school teacher at the Zamboanguita Central Elementary School in Negros Oriental, Rolyn Catanus-Gantalao is among the educators whose career and way of living have been put off by Covid-19. “All of a sudden, everything got cancelled. We were not prepared. It was heartbreaking for us and for kids not to experience things they looked forward to as part of their memories. We felt useless,” she says.

Mental Health Depression GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Rolyn, like most of us, is worried about the future. What happens if she and her fellow educators lose their jobs since there are no classes? “Many felt fear and uncertainty. Fortunately, we were given the opportunity to work, even in a different situation. We felt hope,” she explains.

Keeping their jobs is one thing, but another challenge for teachers is the shift to digital. Some educators are not tech savvy. Many places are without internet service. There is also the spread of fake news on teachers being given a pay cut as parents will have to do most of the teaching under the new setup.

“Like everyone else, we also need help. That’s why we were very grateful for this webinar where issues and concerns regarding our mental health were addressed. Sometimes teachers are not expected to share their struggles because they are seen as strong. The students, even the community, are really dependent on them,” Rolyn muses.

Rolyn was one of the speakers of the “#StartANewDay–Let’s Talk About Mental Health: A Forum for Educators,” the second in a series of mental health webinars organized by communications company Globe through its Hope Bank online support community. This webinar series aims to address mental health issues plaguing various sectors of society and find ways to help.

KEEP SMILING Rolyn is a resilient teacher who did not let the pandemic extinguish her passion

Featured in the recent webinar episode were mental health expert Dr. Carolina Uno-Rayco, national executive director of the Philippine Mental Health Association (PMHA), together with Dr. Salustiano Jimenez, director 3 and officer in charge of the Office of the Regional Director of DepEd Region 7.

Dr. Rayco acknowledged Rolyn’s sentiments. She recommended that teachers be provided with an environment that would promote and sustain good mental health, or avenues where they could talk about their feelings and emotions. The doctor added that in the middle of formal meetings there should be a simple “kumustahan, (how are you’s)” to create a safe space with no judgment about feelings, and to do away with stigma. 

Moreover, Dr. Rayco expounded that the work-from-home setup could be very stressful for educators as boundaries between work and home time had been blurred. She stressed the need to set aside a specific time or schedule, and a physical and psychological place for work at home.  

According to the doctor, teachers should also find coping mechanisms like singing, dancing, exercise, or even breathing sessions for stress relief. Another piece of advice she gave was for teachers to think of positive emotions, remain appreciative of everything, be optimistic, and employ humor and laughter to decrease stress levels in the body.

WHAT CONCERN LOOKS LIKE A screenshot of the seminar

“No need to push ourselves because it’s a different situation now. We can’t expect to be [as] productive [as we were] pre-pandemic, so no need to be excessively obsessed with work output and productivity. We need to be good to ourselves and learn to prioritize things,” said Dr. Rayco. “Relationships can also help, not just the romantic type, knowing that someone loves us like our parents, friends, and lastly, spirituality to help make our lives purposeful.”

We can’t expect to be [as] productive [as we were] pre-pandemic, so no need to be excessively obsessed with work output and productivity. We need to be good to ourselves and learn to prioritize things.

Dr. Carolina Uno-Rayco

Meanwhile, Dr. Jimenez confirmed that teachers would need a strong support mechanism. “I am very happy because Globe is a formidable partner in mental health with their track record of supporting mental health organizations in the country. I hope there will be more like this to come so we’d know how we can help our teaching and non-teaching personnel here in Region 7 cope with this pandemic and other challenges.”

SUPER TEACHER Rolyn with her students, photo from her Facebook page

As a strong mental health advocate, Globe has embarked on various mental health initiatives, including the creation of Hope Bank, an online support community for those who need encouragement. The campaign seeks to empower those undergoing emotional and mental challenges caused by Covid-19 and to boost the morale of frontliners and patients, including educators, their families, and their friends.

To contribute, members can just post messages using hashtag #SpreadHOPE both on their personal profiles and in the group. These can be through photos, artworks, quotes, song lyrics, poems, videos, or anything that expresses hope and positivity.  

The telecommunications service provider has also partnered with organizations like UP Diliman Psychosocial Services (UPD PsycServ) and New Good Feelings (NGF) Mindstrong’s HOPELINE for free counseling or psychotherapy services for frontliners, Covid-19 patients, as well as relatives and people under monitoring or under investigation. All one has to do is send a text or Viber message to 09063743466 or 09167573157 with name and concern or accomplish the form found at bit.ly/PsycServPH to receive a call from a PsycServ volunteer. PsycServ is open Mondays to Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

 
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