Pandemic stress also a challenge for the education sector

Published June 19, 2021, 4:30 PM

by Merlina Hernando-Malipot

While the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) situation is primarily a health problem, other sectors are also starting to experience its impacts such as education.

In a webinar series organized Department of Education (DepEd) and Globe, Philippine Mental Health Association (PMHA) member Dr. Bernardino A. Vicente while people are busy taking care of their physical health to avoid contracting the virus, many Filipinos – including teachers, students and their parents – also suffer from mental health problems.

Philippine Mental Health Association (PMHA) notes a surge in the country’s suicide incidence in 2020. (Unsplash / MANILA BULLETIN)

“Mental disorders are not uncommon, it’s like the physical illness we have,” Vicente said during the fourth TAYO Naman! (Tulong, Alaga, Yakap at Oras para sa mga Tagapagtaguyod ng Edukasyon) session titled “Understanding and Managing Common Mental Disorders and other Psychological Concerns.”

“COVID-19 does not only cause physical health concerns but also psychological disorders,” Vicente said. “The pandemic is really stressful to almost everyone and is actually the reason why there is an increase in depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders, including suicide,” he explained – noting the about a 25.7 percent surge in the country’s suicide incidence in 2020.

The stress from the current situation, he noted, is also a challenge for educators, students, and their parents who have to cope with alternative learning delivery modalities and new ways of doing things.

While these are trying times, Vicente reiterated the World Health Organization (WHO)’s statement: “No health without mental health.”

This, he explained, highlights that mental health and physical health are two inseparable things that one must care about for their own well-being.

Coping with pandemic stress

Vicente explained that positive mental health promotes a longer life, slows the aging process, and helps provide a better prognosis when illness strikes.

Thus, productive activities, fulfilling relationships with other people, the ability to adapt to change, and cope with adversities are vital in keeping a healthy mind.

He noted that time management, physical activities, relaxation training, continued social support and communication, and proper diet and nutrition are some recommended methods to help ease stress.

Vicente said that having a list of activities or memories that make one happy, and seven to eight hours of sleep are also handy in managing stress and achieving good mental health.

“In stress management, you cannot manage something that you do not know,” he explained. “So 90 percent of stress management relies on becoming aware of what stresses you,” he added.

Generally, he noted that stressors “may come from you, from your family, or from work” but he emphasized that “it is not the number of stressors you have, it is the way you carry them.” Understanding mental disorders Vicente also pointed out that another key to prevent or solve mental disorders – aside from medical intervention and a healthy lifestyle – is to understand its concept.

He said that it is also very important “watch out for abnormal psychological and behavioral manifestations” with associations of distress and dysfunction that are recurrent or carried over a sustained period.

Aside from medical intervention and a healthy lifestyle, Vicente noted that an important key to prevent or manage mental disorders is to “understand their nature and symptoms.”

Vicente also emphasized the need to watch out for red flags of psychological and behavioral manifestations associated with distress and dysfunction that are recurrent or carried over a sustained period to “be able to diagnose if a person has a mental disorder.”

Understanding and managing common mental disorders and other psychological concerns was discussed in a webinar series titled ‘TAYO Naman!’ organized by the DepEd and Globe (Screenshot from DepEd/Globe)

The session also included panelists from DepEd Zamboanga del Norte Division including Education Program Supervisor Arcelita Zamoras, Medical Officer III Dr. Cheryl Ocupe, and Project Development Officer II Eunice Janolino.

TAYO Naman! is an online Mental Health and Psychosocial Support program designed to help teachers, non-teaching personnel, and parents learn about self-care, wellness, and resiliency.

The 14-part webinar series is led by the DepEd Disaster Risk Reduction Management Services (DepEd-DRRMS) and the Bureau of Human Resource and Organizational Development-Employee Welfare Division (BHROD-EWD) in collaboration with Globe’s Global Filipino Teachers Series on Psychosocial Support Services, Philippine Mental Health Association and MAGIS Creative Spaces.