A group of guidance counselors expressed alarm on the prevalence of suicide cases among the youth and young adults less than two weeks after the classes for this school year started.
The Philippine Guidance and Counseling Association (PGCA), the main association of all guidance counselors in the country, raised concerns on the number of suicide cases—both reported and unreported—over the past few days.
As confirmed by DepEd, a Grade 11 in Tupi, South Cotabato died by suicide on Oct. 6. The Department of Education (DepEd)-Division of Guihulngan City also confirmed the death of a Grade 6 pupil in an alleged suicide in Barangay Mani-ak in Negros Oriental on Oct. 12.
PGCA PRO Francis Ray Subong told the Manila Bulletin that there are other suicide cases involving learners in the past days that were “not captured” by the media. Citing initial reports, he said that a Grade 10 learner in a private school in Dipolog City as well as a Senior High School (SHS) student from Toledo City, Cebu both died by suicide.
Subong, a mental health professional and guidance counselor from Iloilo City, shared that there are “rising cases” of suicide among the youth and young adults in Western Visayas. “Actually, here in Region 6, we have an increasing rate of reported suicide from 2015 and from January to August 2020, there are 200 plus reported suicide cases,” he added.
Given this, PGCA is urging concerned lead agencies such as the DepEd to provide appropriate intervention. Based on the reports, the recent cases of suicide among youth are linked to adjustments in the new distance learning set-up, especially in dealing with self-learning modules (SLMs). The DepEd has firmly denied that these cases are related to the modules.
“There are other factors that must considered when we talk about suicide,” Subong said. “There are maybe other emotional or psychological concerns that the learner is experiencing prior to suicide but difficulty in answering the modules is maybe one of the factors and it might be the trigger also,” he added.
Given this, Subong urged the DepEd to provide interventions such as properly utilizing existing mental health professionals such as guidance counselors. He noted that the PGCA already met with the DepEd and proposed certain arrangements to maximize the expertise and capabilities of guidance counselors especially in the division and regional levels but there is “no update or action until now.”
While Schools Division Office (SDOs) were directed to set up a hotline/online platform to provide counseling services to learners, teachers and personnel, Subong noted that “the big question: Is it implemented?”
Subong noted that while the DepEd Central Office is providing webinars on mental health, this—alone—may not be enough. “Not all have the access to these videos [but] there are other services that can help both the teachers and the learners,” he added.
Meanwhile, Subong reminded the public that suicide warning signs maybe expressed or delivered in a subtle way. “We must not ignore this,” he added. Those who need help may reach out to the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) crisis hotline at 0917 899 8727 (USAP) and 989 8727 (USAP). The lines are open 24/7.