(MANILA BULLETIN) Senator Jinggoy Estrada on Sunday, February 6, called for the establishment of mental health offices (MHOs) in the campuses of all state universities and colleges (SUCs) as a means to curb the rising incidence of Filipino students struggling with mental health issues.
“There have been a lot of studies that have come out on the worsening mental shape of our youth today. Hindi dapat natin itong ipagwalang bahala (We shouldn’t ignore this),” Estrada said.
“Dapat aksyunan ito at solusyunan. Mahalagang pagtuunan ito ng pansin nang hindi na madagdagan pa ang ating mga mag-aaral na depressed (It must be acted upon and resolved. It is important to focus on this without increasing the number of depressed students),” Estrada said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) report on adolescent mental health showed suicide as the fourth leading cause of death among adolescents aged 15 to 29-year-old, the senator noted.
The same report also pointed out that failing to address adolescent mental health issues could extend to adulthood, impairing both physical and mental health and limiting opportunities to lead fulfilling lives as adults.
“Therefore, there is a need to establish MHOs in all our SUCs and to ensure easy access to mental health care for the well-being not only of our vulnerable youth population but the faculty, teaching and non-teaching staff and personnel in the campuses of our SUCs all throughout the country,” Estrada said.
Estrada has filed Senate Bill 1508 which requires SUCs to set up MHOs in all their campuses, manned by dedicated and trained counselors.
These campus hotlines would be tasked to provide counseling to students, teaching and non-teaching staff as well.
Under the bill, special attention shall be given to those identified to have mental health problems or conditions, especially those at risk of committing suicide.
Hiring of MHO personnel will be based and subject to the evaluation and approval by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM)
The staff will also be given continuing training, taking into consideration the latest information, studies, and know-how on mental health and mental health services.
The bill also mandates health authorities to strengthen campaign on the issue and raise collective consciousness about mental health, with special emphasis on suicide prevention, stress handling, mental health and nutrition, guidance and counselling.
Doing this, the lawmaker said would ensure that the whole SUC community, especially the students, is aware of the availability of in-campus mental health services.