Briones: Mental resilience of students, teachers a ‘big challenge’ for DepEd

As it prepares for a new school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Education Secretary Leonor Briones admitted that the mental resilience of students and teaching personnel is a big challenge to the Department of Education (DepEd).

Education Secretary Leonor Briones (DepEd / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Briones, during a televised meeting with President Duterte on August 31, said that DepEd has always been aware of ensuring the mental stability of both students and its personnel - both teaching and non-teaching. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has a great impact on the way people behave during this time.

Psychosocial problems, Briones said, “have emerged” among students. “So far, among K-to-12 learners, there is only one documented case which showed how COVID is related to the suicide of one child,” she said.

“We believe that the big challenge right now is the psychosocial conditions of people - in the government, among children, and teachers,” Briones said. “The general mental health issue now is anxiety,” she added.

While people “do not die by suicide every day,” Briones noted that the “anxiety and the fears, at times, manifest through behaviors that are usually not typical of Filipinos. “This is the bigger problem for us because when it comes to suicide, we have only monitored, traced, and documented one case but mental resilience - which we all need is - a challenge,” she added.

In an effort to address this, Briones said the DepEd has partnered with the Psychological Association of the Philippines to strengthen the mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) program it provides not only to the students but to all DepEd officials, teaching and non-teaching personnel alike.

“Before, we had guidance counselors but their focus was the learners,” Briones said. “Now, even the teachers, regional directors, and even undersecretaries need psychosocial support,” she added.

As early as July, Briones said DepEd already has programs for mental resilience. “We have a program like this but we are now increasing both physical and mental health resilience of students, teachers, parents, and citizens alike,” she explained. “Insofar as psychosocial issues are concerned, we have started addressing this in July,” added.

As schools await the opening of classes on October 5, Briones said the DepEd has daily programs that focus on psychosocial aspects and upskilling of teachers, among others.