MANILA – Senator Christopher Lawrence Go on Friday stressed the importance of prioritizing the mental health of learners, especially in basic education, to further strengthen the foundation upon which the future of the country is built.
In a statement, the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography said that while basic education equips the youth with knowledge, skills and values, and empowers them to become responsible citizens and contributors to society, the well-being of students should not be overlooked in the pursuit of academic excellence.
"We must acknowledge the inseparable connection between education and mental health, as a child cannot thrive academically if his or her mental well-being is compromised,” he said.
He said this is the reason why he decided to co-sponsor Senate Bill No. 2200, or the Basic Education’s Mental Health and Well-Being Promotion Act, of Senator Sherwin Gatchalian during May 17 plenary sessions.
SBN 2200 aims to provide comprehensive mental health support for the basic education of students and promote their overall well-being by requiring private and public basic education schools to integrate mental health education and support services into their curricula.
Considering the increasing prevalence of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression among the youth, Go said that promoting mental health must be a crucial component of the educational system so students can develop resilience, coping mechanisms, and emotional intelligence, which are vital for their overall growth and success.
“Mental health is important and the pressing issues concerning mental health are alarming. Even during the first few months of the pandemic, marami pong kababayan natin ang nakaka-experience ng (many of our countrymen have experienced) depression,” he said.
He also noted that there were a lot of suicide cases in the quarantine facilities involving depressed students, as well as overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
In 2017, the World Health Organization reported that 16 percent of Filipino children had mental disorders, and this figure could be more in the present.
Meanwhile, according to the Department of Education (DepEd), a total of 404 learners from public schools committed suicide in 2021, while 2,147 learners attempted suicide.
If passed into law, SBN 2200 will institutionalize the School-Based Mental Health Program in all public and private basic education schools to promote mental health awareness and manage the mental health concerns of all learners, including the prevention of suicide in schools.
DepEd is also directed to establish and maintain a Care Center in every public basic education school, as well as ensure their establishment and maintenance in private basic education schools in the country.
The Center shall be equipped with functional physical facilities, located within an adequate space where confidentiality is maintained, and accessible to the learners and the teaching and non-teaching personnel. (PNA)