During the Senate hearing of the Committee on Basic Education last January 31, 2023, the Department of Education Assistant Secretary Dexter Galban said that it has recorded a total of 404 learners who died by suicide and 2,147 learners who attempted suicide in the Academic Year 2021-2022.
Save the Children Philippines is deeply concerned for the health and well-being of millions of Filipino learners, following this reveal. The Philippines’ mental health crisis is a public health concern that requires an urgent whole-community approach response. The gravity of the issue cannot be overlooked as the suicide rates may even increase in the coming years if left unaddressed. To protect an entire generation from violence and untimely deaths, we need the national agencies and local governments to immediately act and work together to prevent years of progress from being reversed. Save the Children believes that children from all backgrounds and identities have the right to mental health. All children deserve to live and learn in a safe and nurturing environment that will allow them to develop their social and emotional skills, increase their space for play and interaction with peers, and provide them access to high-quality mental health care and psychosocial support services.
Now more than ever, the inequalities experienced by our learners -that were exposed and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic- should be put to an immediate end. Filipino learners should not face stressors and challenges alone. We have to be there for and with them in these trying times and respond to their issues effectively to build back better for and with children.
Thus, Save the Children Philippines urges the Department of Health (DOH), the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), together with DepEd to be at the forefront in curbing its impact.
Save the Children Philippines also calls the DOH to prioritize the integration of mental healthcare into primary care by increasing the availability and accessibility of mental health services and training primary care professionals on the promotion, prevention, care, and protection. They call on the DSWD to complement social welfare programs with child-friendly community-based mental health programs that address not only individual mental health and psychosocial needs but the overall psychosocial needs of the family unit as well.
Here is a statement from Save the Children Philippines CEO Atty. Alberto Muyot:
“We have to break the stigma and tear down the environment of shame that have cloaked generations of children in silence and prevented them from enjoying their right to live in a safe and healthy environment.
We can save millions of children affected if we raise awareness and deepen the conversation on mental health; make information, programs, and services readily available; strengthen the capacity of children, parents, duty bearers, and the community to respond and address children’s mental health issues, and reinforce multisectoral collaboration to strictly ensure and monitor the full implementation of related laws and policies.
Mentally healthy learners have better academic outcomes, forge healthy interpersonal relationships, and have an increased chance of a fulfilling adult life.
Let us invest in children’s mental health and well-being by creating a better world that will positively transform their lives and the future we share.”
Let’s work together to bring this issue to light and let us work together as a society, (including media), as a nation, and as resilient Filipinos, in finding ways to ensure that mental health issues among learners are addressed.
Help is always available. If you’re suffering through something, contact the following help hotlines:
National Center for Mental Health Crisis Hotline: 0966-351-4518
Hopeline: (02) 8804-4673
In Touch: Crisis Line: (02) 8893-7603
NCMH Crisis Hotline: 1800-1888-1553
Child Helpline 1-6-3: 163
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