DepEd urged to tap guidance counselors in preventing suicide among students

Published October 9, 2020, 6:57 PM

by Merlina Hernando-Malipot

The Department of Education (DepEd) should “utilize and maximize” its mental health professionals –especially the guidance counselors — to help prevent cases of suicide among students, a mental health professional said Friday.

Mental health professional and guidance counselor Francis Ray Subong lamented the reported suicide of a Grade 11 student in Tupi, South Cotabato earlier this week.

“Personally, this is what I fear the most — the ‘3rd wave’ of COVID or the Mental Health (MH) crisis,” Subong, who is also a master teacher at the Iloilo National High School, said. “There are suicides that are reported but there are also those that remain unreported,” he added.

Cases such as this, Subong said, could have been prevented if only mental health professionals, such as the guidance counselors, are “properly utilized” by DepEd to help provide mental health and psychosocial support services to students and teachers especially with the new learning delivery this school year. “They are undervalued, worst underutilized,” he said.

Subong is part of the Philippine Guidance and Counseling Association (PGCA) which is the main association of all guidance counselors in the country. To date, he noted that “there is no real or concrete” mental health program in DepEd. as mandated by Republic Act 11036 otherwise known as the Mental Health Act of 2018 and Civil Service Commission Memorandum Circular Number 4, Series of 2020, entitled Mental Health in the Public Sector.

To be able to provide mental health services to students, Subong said that “DepEd should properly utilize the existing mental health professionals as well as its mental health programs and services.”

DepEd officials, Subong added, should “truly understand the essence” of the profession of guidance and counseling because it is not only exclusive to learners.

Subong asked DepEd to provide a proper and professional Counselor Supervision to Guidance Counselors. “How can a non-professional counselor supervise, monitor and provide technical assistance if s/he cannot even grasp the practice of a particular profession?” he asked.

PGCA urged DepEd to immediately create the DepEd Technical Working Group on Mental Health and create DepEd Mental Health Program for both learners and teachers. “We will always be willing to assist and provide technical expertise to DepEd,” Subong said.