DepEd pressed to come up with more concrete programs for mental health

Published October 22, 2020, 5:04 PM

by Merlina Hernando-Malipot

Aside from holding webinars on mental health and psychosocial support, a group of guidance counselors urged the Department of Education (DepEd) Thursday to offer “effective services” that can help both teachers and students amid these challenging times.

The Philippine Guidance and Counseling Association (PGCA), the main association of all guidance counselors in the country, appealed to DepEd to offer more “concrete programs” following the reported incidents of suicide involving teachers and students.

“Mental health programs and its services are not just about webinars alone provided by the DepEd Central Office,” PGCA PRO Francis Ray Subong said. “Not all have the access to these videos (and) there are other effective services that can help both the teachers and the learners,” he added.

Subong, a mental health professional and guidance counselor from Iloilo City, issued this appeal following the statement issued by DepEd Tuesday addressing suicide reports involving some teachers and students.

“Stress is a normal part of life,” Subong said. “However, we need to understand that prior the COVID pandemic, learners and even teachers are already burdened by issues: Physical, psychological, socially, emotionally and even spiritual,” he said.

The impact of COVID-19, Subong said, adds up to their individual burden. While others cope adequately, “some will really need help from professionals” such as guidance counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists.

In its statement, DepEd requested the public to “respect the families’ privacy” and avoid speculating on the causes of their deaths. Citing that suicide is a “sensitive and complex issue,” the agency also appealed to “stop directly connecting such to modules or distance learning” since none of these cases referred to distance learning as the primary cause based on initial investigations.

While Subong agrees that there are other factors that may be involved in suicide, he said that “current situation or experience maybe one of the triggers.”

As provided for by Republic Act 11036 or the “Mental Health Act,” Subong reiterated that educational institutions shall develop policies and programs for students, educators, and other employees designed to raise awareness on mental health issues, among others.

“The DepEd is in the best position to provide education, information and mental health support to learners and its employees as mandated by the Mental Health Act,” Subong added.