By Merlinda Hernando-Malipot
Public elementary and secondary schools nationwide are enjoined by the Department of Education (DepEd) to undertake several activities in accordance with the celebration of this year’s World Mental Health Day and National Mental Health Week.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones, in DepEd Memorandum No. 132 s. 2019, asked school officials of all public elementary and high schools to conduct various activities related to the Mental Health Day celebrated every October 10 and in line with the Mental Health Awareness Week which is observed every second week of October pursuant to Presidential Proclamation No. 452 s. 1994.
As the World Mental Health Day celebration focus on suicide prevention, DepEd and its schools were also asked to look into “relevant resources” to the celebration available from the World Health Organization (WHO).
In this year’s celebration of World Mental Health Day and National Mental Health Week, Briones directed DepEd’s central, regional, schools division offices, and schools to “conduct activities” for employees, learners, parents, and/or other concerned stakeholders to “promote mental health and raise awareness on related issues.”
School Mental Health Forum
Meanwhile, Briones also asked the DepEd’s Bureau of Learner Support Services – School Health Division (BLSS-SHD), in coordination with concerned bureaus and divisions at the Central Office to lead the conduct of the 2019 School Mental Health Forum.
The School Mental Health Forum, Briones said, is “an annual activity of the Department in celebration of the National Mental Health Week and World Mental Health Day.”
In 2018, DepEd spearheaded the first School Mental Health Forum in an effort to provide a venue to discuss recent researches, updates, initiatives, issues, and concerns related to mental health, especially in the school context.
Last year’s forum gathered health personnel, teachers, guidance counselors, and other non-teaching personnel from the Central, Regional, and Division Offices, and public schools, as well as external partners, to showcase programs and research studies related to school mental health.
DepEd noted that it has been initiating significant efforts to ensure the health and well-being of both the personnel and learners, in partnership with various agencies and organizations. In the past years, DepEd said that it has been implementing programs, has passed policies, and has conducted activities related to the promotion of mental health which include the conduct of trainings on mental health and psychosocial support, and the issuance of policies as complex as child protection and addressing bullying, and even as simple as unloading children of homework during weekends.
Likewise, DepEd assured that mental health concepts have always been incorporated in basic education curricula – especially in health and values education subjects.
Following the enactment of Republic Act (RA) No. 11036 or the Mental Health Act, DepEd is also expected to issue a comprehensive school mental health policy. As stated in the said RA, the duties and responsibilities of DepEd include integrating age-appropriate content pertaining to mental health into the curriculum at all educational levels both in public and private institutions; developing guidelines and standards on age-appropriate and evidence-based mental health programs both in public and private institutions; pursuing strategies that promote the realization of mental health and well-being in educational institutions; and ensuring that mental health promotions in public and private educational institutions shall be adequately complemented with qualified mental health professionals.
DepEd has also made mental health awareness as one of the flagship features of its “Oplan Kalusugan (OK) sa DepEd or “OK sa DepEd” program which is a convergence of the agency’s health and nutrition initiatives to ensure their impact especially at the school level.