- DepEd urges schools nationwide to raise awareness on mental health and mental wellbeing
- They have launched several campaigns in regards to this, including a yearly School Mental Health Forum, which allows resources speakers to talk about researches and updates regarding mental health in a school setting
- Lawmakers have also recognized the problem, and are creating laws to address these issues
On Oct. 9, the Department of Education (DepEd) enjoined several public elementary and secondary schools nationwide to undertake several activities in accordance with the celebration of this year’s World Mental Health Day and National Mental Health Week.
As the World Mental Health Day celebration focus on suicide prevention, DepEd and its schools were also asked to look into “relevant resources” to the celebration available from the World Health Organization (WHO).
The campaign for the inclusion of mental health programs in the curriculum has long been an advocacy of DepEd. The growing numbers of youth who are handling difficult and stressful situations, as well as resorting to suicide both nationwide and worldwide are reaching alarming levels. The Department of Education has already expressed that this phenomena should be nipped at the bud at this early stage with the introduction of mental health programs.
Hence, the government body has said that it has been implementing programs, has passed various policies and conducted several activities relating to the promotion of mental health, which include trainings on mental health and psychosocial support, and the issuance of policies as complex as child protection and addressing bullying.
In this year’s celebration of World Mental Health Day and National Mental Health Week, Briones urged DepEd’s central, regiona, school division offices, and schools to conduct various activities for employees, learners, parents and the other concerned stakeholders to “promote mental health and raise awareness on related issues.”
In an effort to foster discussions about mental health and to raise its awareness, DepEd spearheaded a School Mental Health Forum. This was to provide a venue to discuss recent researches, updates, initiatives, issues, and concerns related to mental illness with an emphasis on it being in a school setting.
Briones emphasized that the School Mental Health Forum is “an annual activity of the Department in celebration of the National Mental Health Week and World Mental Health Day.”
Last year DepEd spearheaded the first forum, and they have gathered health personnel, teachers, guidance counselors, and other non-teaching personnel from the Central, Regional, and Division Offices, and public schools to showcase programs and researches related to school mental health.
For this year, Briones tapped DepEd’s Bureau of Learner Support Services – School Health Division (BLSS-SHD), in coordination with concerned bureaus and divisions at the Central Office to lead and conduct the 2019 School Mental Health Forum.
Efforts to bring awareness to the public do not limit itself within the walls and policies of DepEd. Other lawmakers have noted the problem and are changing and making laws to address these issues.
Last year, the House Bill (HB) 7858 was introduced in their efforts to address mental health issues among the youth. It intends to establish Youth Health Centers nationwide to address the stigma of mental health and identify prevalent symptoms of depression. It also includes “life education and peer counseling programs” to foster positive mental health among elementary pupils and high school students.
Author Rep. L-Ray Villafuerte of Camarines Sur called on the DepEd to “institutionalize” the Youth Suicide Prevention program to ensure “that the mental health needs of our youth are taken care of.”
By implementing a “peer counseling program” in schools, according to the lawmaker, will encourage positive mental health for students and thus prevent suicides like the cases of actor Robin Williams, fashion mogul Kate Spade, and CNN celebrity chef-TV host Anthony Bourdain.
Last year, the Philippines also received its Mental Health Law, when President Duterte signed Republic Act 11036 into law. Former House deputy speaker Miro Quimbo, who is also the principal author of the bill, applauded the move, noting that mental health issues have been “a silent killer.”
“For so many years, problems related to mental health has become a silent killer. It has literally become an epidemic. With the enactment, people grappling with depression, anxiety and bipolar conditions can now come out of the darkness,” the Marikina congressman said.
Although there are more steps to do in the promotion and recognition of mental health and awareness to mental wellbeing, these initiatives are fundamental pillars to understanding and guiding the youth to a more holistic type of health. -Philstar/MB