Parents, guardians urged to make home safe for students amid pandemic

Due to the ongoing public health crisis, students are mostly confined in their houses, without seeing their peers.

A mental health expert believes this more than enough reason for students to get anxious. 

To help them process the changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, parents and guardians are urged to make their homes safe for children.

 In a Manila Bulletin exclusive, mental health professional Francis Ray Subong underscored the importance of mental health among students. 

As guidance counselor and career specialist for the Department of Education (DepEd), he also outlined what the parents and guardians can do to help the children cope with the stress and anxiety caused by the impacts of COVID-19. 

“For parents, we should make our home a safe space,” Subong said. “We should make our own safe spaces and when we deal with mental health, it should be promotion and prevention." 

Subong, who is also a Master Teacher at the Iloilo National High School, is part of the Philippine Guidance and Counseling Association (PGCA), the main association of all guidance counselors in the country. 

Citing the socio-ecological impacts of COVID-19 based on the World Health Organization (WHO), Subong noted the spike of domestic abuse and violence during the pandemic.

“If a learner is abused at home, his or her safe space is the school but with this pandemic, they are confined inside their homes with their abusers - this is what we fear the most,” Subong said. “If there is already a history of abuse, this will become worse at this time,” he added.

Given this, Subong underscored the need for the DepEd to partner with other agencies such as the Department of Social and Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the local government units (LGUs) to ensure the homes are safe for children during this time.

Subong also urged concerned agencies such as the DepEd, DSWD, and LGUs to “involve guidance counselors to capacitate the general public” on dealing with mental health and other issues that affect children.

Mental health matters

For Subong, there is a need to ensure the mental stability of both learners and teachers as “we prepare on the third wave of the pandemic which are mental health concerns.”

Subong noted that mental health is an investment. “If we don’t invest in mental health, how can we work productively?” he asked. “How can we deal with the stresses in our daily lives and how can we make a positive contribution in our community?” 

The ongoing health crisis, Subong said, causes stress and anxiety not only to students but to teachers as well. 

“Giving them psychosocial support is very important at this time,” he maintained.

Provision of psychosocial support for students and teachers, Subong said, "is not all about giving medicines, many of them might just need other activities." 

Subong noted agencies such as DepEd should initiate efforts such as the provision of online counselling for both students and teachers through the guidance counselors.

Meanwhile, Subong enjoined students, teachers, and the general public to take care of their mental health during this time. 

“Let’s try to deal with our own issues, try to relax, and our mindset should be, ‘this too shall pass’,” he said.

In particular, Subong noted the importance of being “prudent” especially in social media when “too much information” is shared. 

“We need to go back to basics and we should deal with mental health as a whole-of-society approach,” he ended.