A SENATOR has called for mental health education in schools to raise awareness and end the stigma suffered by people with mental illnesses.
In a conference at the Albertus Magnus Auditorium last Feb. 18, Sen. Risa Hontiveros said a mental health curriculum in schools would be required under the proposed Mental Health Act.
“Once enacted into law, we will integrate mental health services into the public health system. The curricula in our schools will also include mental health as a topic to be better understood,” Hontiveros said.
“Our schools should not only be institutions of learning but also places to nurture sound mental health,” she said.
The chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Health also said mental health services in schools should be improved amid the growing number of youths lost to suicide.
“Unfortunately, most schools are not equipped to handle the mental health of their students,” Hontiveros said. “Schools must be safe spaces. Young people who are learning more about themselves and the world spend a big chunk of their lives in universities and colleges.”
Hontiveros added that young people should discuss mental health on social media.
“If social media can help shape social movements and create positive change, it can surely help us raise awareness on mental health and fight the stigma surrounding mental illness,” she said.
Marc Reyes, who teaches psychology at the College of Science, called for a serious national discussion on suicide prevention.
“We always refuse to talk about suicide but we need to, because suicide prevention in the Philippines is a mental health issue,” Reyes said.
Reyes said data on suicide was minimal. Most cases are unreported because of the stigma associated with suicidal behavior, he said.
“It is good that the millennials are now looking into areas of prevention and awareness towards suicide behavior,” he added.
A 2014 global report by the World Health Organization found that depression is the most common cause of illness and disability for those in the 10 to 19-year old age bracket, while suicide is the second leading causes of death globally among people aged 15 to 29 years old.
The conference, “Open Minds: Integrating Mental Health to Schools,” was organized by the UST Central Student Council, the UST Simbahayan Community Development Office and Youth for Mental Health.