The Department of Education (DepEd) on Friday assured that preventive measures to address mental health issues are in place to support those who might need help.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones, during the virtual “Handang Isip, Handa Bukas” press briefing, said the agency is aware of these health issues and is initiating steps that would help prevent these unfortunate incidents affecting teachers, students, and other school personnel.
“One of the very first issues I had to deal with when I became DepEd secretary was mental health among our teachers and learners,” Briones said. Given this situation, she assured that “whatever human resources we have, we really use it and if we cannot manage these, we seek help.”
Briones said that DepEd has a health unit which also extends help to concerned students and teachers. While there are guidance counselors in schools, some cases might call for the expertise of doctors.
“In some cases, the expertise of specialized doctors is needed and this is not something that an ordinary counselor can handle because they might need to give advice and prescribe medication,” Briones explained in a mix of English and Filipino.
She also said, “We also recognize that we have a shortage of professional guidance counselors because the current salary that we offer does not attract them.”
For those who need mental health services, Briones said most provinces have their own health facilities and they also offer counselling. “We are working with them because we cannot provide for needed human resources for this kind of issue and there are also various instances when we avoided extreme results because of intervention,” she added.
Undersecretary Jesus Mateo explained that DepEd mental health and psychosocial support needs are also coordinated with the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Service (DRMMS). “They hold webinars on this issue and we also have an arrangement with the Psychological Association of the Philippines to address these needs,” he added.
Briones acknowledged that DepEd has no expertise on mental health issues, especially those related to suicide, describing these as “very complex.”
“We cannot claim expertise on this because it is a worldwide phenomenon,” she said. “It is also very dangerous, from my own experience and exposure to such cases, to draw conclusions on these incidents,” she added.