A group of guidance counselors is urging the Department of Education (DepEd) to immediately create a technical working group (TWG) that would help address emerging issues related to the mental health of both students and teachers.
The Philippine Guidance and Counseling Association (PGCA), the main association of all guidance counselors in the country, issued this appeal following reported incidents of suicide among teachers and students since the classes for this school year started.
PGCA PRO Francis Ray Subong told the Manila Bulletin that the number of suicide cases involving students has been increasing – most of which are not reported. “There are other factors that must considered when we talk about suicide,” he explained.
Subong, who is also a mental health professional and guidance counselor from Iloilo City, added that while “there are maybe other emotional or psychological concerns that the learner is experiencing prior to suicide” – there are risk factors and triggers that can be related to their studying which the DepEd also needs to look into.
“This is why it is also very crucial for DepEd to create the TWG on Mental Health as soon as possible,” Subong said. Aside from the TWG, the PGCA also urged DepEd to create a DepEd Mental Health Program – for both learners and teachers. “The PGCA will always be willing to assist and provide technical expertise to DepEd,” he added.
Subong noted that currently, “there is no real or concrete mental health program in DepEd” as mandated by RA 11036 otherwise known as the Mental Health Act of 2018 and Civil Service Commission Memorandum Circular Number 4 s. 2020 entitled Mental Health in the Public Sector.
The area of mental health, Subong said, should be in the Health Office as “clearly provided” in RA 11036. “The Health office of DepEd is the School Health Division under the Bureau of Learner Support Services,” he added.
To be able to provide mental health and psychosocial support to the students and teachers who need it, Subong urged DepEd to “properly utilize and maximize” the existing mental health professionals such as the guidance counselors.
“DepEd officials should truly understand the essence of the profession of guidance and counseling – it is not only exclusive to learners,” Subong said.
As confirmed by DepEd, a Grade 11 in Tupi, South Cotabato died by suicide on Oct. 6. The DepEd-Division of Guihulngan City also confirmed the death of a Grade 6 pupil in an alleged suicide in Barangay Mani-ak in Negros Oriental on Oct. 12. The DepEd Region 7 also confirmed the deaths of other students – two from Cebu (Toledo City and Alcoy) and another one from Bohol.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines also raised concerns on the mental and psychosocial support given to teachers after following the reported death of a teacher in Leyte on Oct. 16 allegedly due to suicide.