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Friday, April 19, 2024

Suicide rate among youths alarms solons

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LAWMAKERS on Tuesday expressed alarm over the Department of Health (DOH) report showing that 17 percent of children and adolescents reported having thought of committing suicide.

Anakalusugan Rep. Ray Reyes and BHW Rep Angelica Natasha Co made separate statements after DOH reported its 2021 study during the briefing of the House Committee on Welfare of Children last Monday.

Reyes said the DOH had reported that the suicide ideation number has risen from 597,000 in 2013 to 1.5 million kids in 2021, with only 7 percent of that number seeking help from their parents or guardians, as opposed to 25 percent seeking advice from their peers.

“This is alarming. Our children spend most of their time learning to navigate life from what they learn at school. Their young minds are still in their formative years, and the data showing that our children prefer seeking help from their friends than their guardians only show that professional help is much needed,” Reyes said.

The Senate hearing earlier this month revealed that at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic more than 400 students committed suicide, while over 2,000 attempted suicides in School Year 2021-2022 alone.

“It is incumbent upon us, lawmakers, to safeguard the mind and mental health of the young. I call for the immediate passage of policies towards the institutionalization of stronger and more comprehensive school-based mental health programs to ensure a more functional and more productive society in the coming years. As such, we call on the Senate to pass a counterpart bill seeking to strengthen the mental health services in schools,” Reyes said.

The Lower House has passed on third reading House Bill No. 06574 or the Basic Education Mental Health and Well-Being Promotion Act.  The bill was transmitted to the Senate on February 1 this year.

It directs the Department of Education (DepEd) to recruit, train, and hire additional mental health professionals in all public schools and adequately address various mental, emotional, and developmental needs of students, teachers, and school personnels.

The measure likewise proposes the establishment of a Mental Health and Well-being Office in all school’s division offices and schools to cater to the needs of employees and learners. The office will then be headed by a qualified Mental Health Professional with a position of Guidance Services Specialist V.

For her part, Co expressed disappointment at the poor implementation of the National Mental Health Act and other laws, which, she says, could have prevented many of the suicides if they had been implemented.

“We want to see more trained peer counselors, especially those who are student leaders, the academic and non-academic student organizations. Parents’ organizations must be involved in the training of parents,” she said.

“We need more interagency coordination and monitoring and follow-up on all the cases of suicides, bullying, and violence involving students and teachers,” she added.

The lawmaker said there must be synergy among all the implementing agencies, one hotline that the public can remember instead of the many hotlines per agency, and one concrete program that all can follow, including all barangays.

“We will work with the House Committee on Civil Service and Professional Regulation to address the shortage of guidance counselors. My suggestion is to have additional categories of guidance counselors—in the same way that the nursing and engineering professions have technicians, specialists, and aides,” she said.

“We will ask the DOH to include mental health training for barangay health workers. This would be one quick way to swiftly add more people who can be first responders in communities and schools,” she added.

Also, in recent data provided by the Department of Education, among the 28 million student population, 404 students ended their lives; 2,147 learners had attempted to end their lives in the year 2021; roughly 775,962 learners sought guidance counseling from a guidance counselor, and this is based on 2021 data that is approximately 2.85 percent of the population.

Of the 60,157 schools, there were only 16,557 guidance officers and 2,093 registered guidance counselors. 

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