By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
Stakeholders coming from various sectors urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to address one of the biggest problems that confront today’s young people – mental health.
The need to focus on and address mental health issues was one of the topics that were brought up by stakeholders in the first-ever National Summit on the Rights of the Child in Education (NSRCEd) held from November 14 to 15.
DepEd – through its Legal Affairs Office – has partnered with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Save the Children Philippines, Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC), Plan International Philippines, Child Protection Network (CPN), and Ateneo Human Rights Center for the conduct of the summit at The Heritage Hotel Manila in Pasay City.
Bantay Bata 163 and broadcast journalist Jing Castaneda, who was among those who issued a commitment to the rights of children in education, noted the need to “pay more attention” to the mental health of children.
Castaneda shared that there were some children – as young as 12 years old – “who called the hotline” saying they were “depressed” because “nobody seemed to listen to them.”
Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) Undersecretary and Executive Director Mary Mitzi Cajayon-Uy also urged DepEd – as well as the HOR and Senate – to also look at the number of learners in school who struggle with mental health and other psychological concerns.
“When we review the K to 12 program, I hope we also listen to studies by experts on the impact of the curriculum among our children,” Uy said. “I’m not saying the K to 12 is bad, actually I think it is very good but I think we also need to listen to the feedback of the experts why many students are being stressed in school,” she added.
Maria Jocel Lavilla, a grade 9 student of Pasay City National High School, also believes that schools should step up when it comes to addressing the youth’s mental health.
“Ang napapansin ko po kasi, maraming students ang napre-pressure dahil sa dami ng requirements sa school,” Lavilla said. As one of the participants in the NSCREd, she hopes to learn more about the rights of children and where they can get support to overcome the challenges ahead of them.
Learners’ mental health
Recognizing that mental health is among the biggest issues that confront the country’s youth, DepEd assured that it will continue to step up its policies that will help ensure that the overall well-being of learners will be taken cared of.
“Our mental health law, it’s not only for the learners because the implementors are teachers, policy-makers, administrators,” said DepEd Undersecretary for Finance Service and Education Programs Delivery Unit Annalyn Sevilla. “As DepEd, we will implement the metal health law both to the implementers – the teachers and administrators – and to our clientele which is the learners,” she added.
Sevilla said that DepEd continues to strengthen its School Health program. “These days, our definition of health is not just physical – it includes mental, psychological and spiritual and these are the same health and wellness issues that we need to monitor among our learners,” she added.
With the passage of the mental health law, Sevilla expressed confidence that this concern will be addressed in the education sector. “DepEd is one of the agencies which crafted the IRR [Implementing Rules and Regulations] and are waiting for the approval of the final IRR so it can be incorporated to all programs of the DepEd,” she added.
Meanwhile, Sevilla also underscored the need for the DepEd to adjust its policies with the ever-changing educational landscape. “Our world evolves so fast and technology is one factor that we need to look into,” she said. “We have to understand that this technology gives us not just benefits or advantages but also risks such as losing humanity and compassion which is compromised when we depend too much on technology,” she added.
Echoing Education Secretary Leonor Briones’’ assertion that the “learnings that we acquire now may not be relevant in the future,” Sevilla noted that “education can give to a child is his or her personality, humanity and how they can overcome challenges in life and ultimately, the values that the child will bring from school until he or she becomes a productive citizen of the country.”
As she underscored the need to adjust to a new generation of learners, Sevilla reminded all stakeholders that “education is not memorization or not just about knowledge and wisdom anymore.”
“Education includes not just skills and attitude but more on the humanity – students being courageous, being confident and students who know how to fight for their rights,” Sevilla ended.