‘PH schools need mental health centers’

(MANILA STANDARD) Two senators want to build Mental Health Offices (MHOs) in schools to address the mental, emotional, and developmental needs of learners and personnel of the Department of Education (DepEd).

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada wants to put up MHOs on the campuses of all state universities and colleges (SUCs) while Sen. Lito Lapid wants it in every school division.

Estrada, who is pushing for Senate Bill 1508, said there have been a lot of studies showing the worsening mental shape of our youth today.

He cited the World Health Organization (WHO) report on adolescent mental health, which showed suicide as the fourth leading cause of death among adolescents aged 15 to 29 years old.

In the same report, WHO said the failure to address adolescent mental health conditions extends to adulthood, impairing both physical and mental health and limiting opportunities to 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’s bill also requires that all SUCs will have MHOs in all their campuses.

He said they should also set up campus hotlines with dedicated and trained guidance counselors to provide assistance to students and teaching and non-teaching staff.

Lapid filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 1795 which aims to put up Mental Health and Well-being Offices in every schools division.

“It’s worrisome- increasing cases of anxiety, stress and depression not on aming our students, but also among teaching and non-teaching personnels,” Lapid said.

In the bill’s explanatory note, Lapid expressed dismay over the rising cases of mental health among students, citing that the Department of Health (DOH) estimated that at least 3.6 million Filipinos faced mental health issues during the pandemic.

“Just recently, on January 20, 2023, a 13-year-old male student was stabbed by his 15-year-old classmate inside the Culiat High School. Further, on January 23, 2023, a senior high school student died after falling from the ninth floor of a building inside the school premises,” he said.

“We don’t want another case like this in the future. So tht in our bill, we emphasized prioritizing mental health of students,” he added,

Lapid’s bill to be known as the “Basic Education Mental Health and Well-Being Promotion Act” also mandates the DepEd to provide for the hiring and deployment of Mental Health Professionals such that each public elementary, secondary, vocational institution, and offices in the different governance levels of the DepEd shall have mental health professionals or mental health service providers.

Under SB No. 1795, DepEd shall also provide for sufficient resources for mental health programs and projects designed to maintain and address the mental health and well-being of learners and personnel