Mental health office in state universities, colleges pushed

(INQUIRER) MANILA, Philippines — Senator Jinggoy Estrada filed a bill seeking the establishment of mental health offices (MHOs) in the campuses of all state universities and colleges (SUCs) amid the worsening mental health problem among students.

“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 should not disregard this),” said Estrada in a statement on Sunday.

“Dapat aksyunan ito at solusyunan. Mahalagang pagtuunan ito ng pansin nang hindi na madagdagan pa ang ating mga mag-aaral na depressed,” he added.

(This must be addressed and resolved so as not to add to the number of depressed students.)

In filing Senate Bill 1508, Estrada cited a World Health Organization report stated that suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among individuals aged 15 to 29. 

It also showed that if left untreated, it could limit opportunities for the youth in the future.

 “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 in his bill.

Under the said measure, all SUCs shall be required to have MHOs in all their campuses, and to set up campus hotlines with dedicated and trained guidance counselors to provide assistance to students and teaching and non-teaching staff. 

Special attention shall be given to those identified to have mental health problems or conditions, especially those at risk of committing suicide. 

Each MHO shall be staffed by trained mental health professionals.

The hiring of qualified personnel will be subject to evaluation and approval by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) whether they will be given plantilla positions or on contractual or part-time basis in campuses of SUCs. 

The MHO staff will also be subjected to continuing training, taking into consideration the latest information, studies, and othere aspects  of. mental health and mental health services. -Zacarian Sarao/ Inquirer