Mental health education needed in schools

MANILA — Since most schools remain ill-equipped to handle mental health needs of students, a senator has urged administrators and student leaders to integrate mental health promotion and services to respond to their needs.

“Our schools should not only be institutions of learning but also places to nurture sound mental health,” Sen. Risa Hontiveros said in a recent forum at the University of Santo Tomas (UST).

“Many Filipinos, especially our young ones are suffering from the silent burden of impaired mental health. This is clearly the result of the country’s lack of a mental health policy to address this serious health concern,” she added.

Hontiveros, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, also urged the youth to use social media and start the discussion on mental health.

She said that if social media can help shape social movements, it could surely help raise awareness on mental health and fight the stigma surrounding mental illness especially since reports showed that there are over 40 million active Facebook accounts in the Philippines.

“It’s time we give voice to people with mental health needs who are silently suffering in the dark due to the lack of mental health law,” Hontiveros said.

“We need to reach out to them and tell them that they are not alone, that they should not suffer silently in the dark,” the neophyte senator added.

Hontiveros earlier filed Senate Bill No. 1190 or the Philippine Mental Health Act which is meant to integrate mental health services and programs in the public health system, including in the schools, to institutionalize campus-based interventions and awareness campaigns for mental health.

The Philippines is one of the few countries in the world without a comprehensive mental health law, she said.

Citing government data, Hontiveros said that there are seven Filipinos who commit suicide each day. Meanwhile, one in five young people have thought about suicide and took steps towards it. The number of suicide cases in the country has steadily risen over a period of 20 years from 1992 to 2012. Azer Parrocha/