Alarmed over reports of suicide cases among students, Senator Chiz Escudero has called on the Department of Health (DOH) to lead a nationwide study that will enable the government to get a bigger picture of the current mental health state of Filipinos.
The veteran legislator stressed a comprehensive study is needed to have a holistic and effective approach in addressing the problem in general.
The move, he said, will also supplement the recent survey conducted by the Department of Education (DepEd) on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the mental health of elementary and high school students.
Escudero recalled that since early 2021, when he was still the governor of Sorsogon, has already been urging the national government to conduct the study so effective measures can be drafted and put in place o help Filipinos cope with the mental stress and anxiety caused by the global health crisis.
At the time, there were already reports of people, both students and workers, experiencing clinical depression and even suicides.
“Kalagitnaan pa lamang ng pandemya noong 2021 bagaman ako ay gobernador pa ako noon, ang aking pinanukala ay marapat na tingnan ng pamahalaan ang iba’t ibang mental health issues na kinakaharap ng ating mga kababayan–elementary, high school, college o nagtatrabaho man–dahil malaki ang epekto na dulot ng pandemya, lalo na ang mga lockdowns, sa ating mga kababayan,” Escudero said.
“It has been two years and I have yet to see a comprehensive study on this subject. Kaya lumalabas na may problema tayo sa elementary at high school students dahil iyan lamang naman ang may datos at pag-aaral na ginawa,” he added.
According to DepEd, there were 404 students who died by suicide during the Academic Year 2021-2022 while some 2,147 attempted suicides were recorded.
A DepEd representative at the Senate Committee on Basic Education hearing last week informed the senators that the worst might not be over since 100-percent in-person classes for public and private schools only resumed in November after two years of remote learning.
“Hindi sapat ang mga datos na ating nalaman. Ito ang aking panawagan, marapat na tingnan ng DOH ang kasalukuyang mental health situation sa ating bansa, hindi lamang sa mga mag-aaral–elementary, high school o college,” said Escudero, who chairs the Senate Committee on Higher, Technical and Vocational Education.
“Dapat na maisama sa pag-aaral pati na mga ordinaryong mga Pilipino mula sa ibat-ibang sektor, nagtatrabaho o walang trabaho. Mahalagang makuha ang mga datos na iyan para malaman natin kung papaano natin gagawan ng remedyo o solusyon ang problemang ito,” the Bicolano senator stressed.
While he was governor, as an advocate of mental health and wellness, Escudero has also been pushing for a wider coverage of the Universal Health Care (UHC) program to include the promotion of mental health, and not just the treatment of mental health-related issues.
Escudero said there is really a need to promote mental health and wellness that is strongly supported by the government due to the alarming rise in mental health-related cases in the country.