Senator Mark Villar expressed his concern about the drastic increase in children with various mental health concerns. He emphasized that the country must already consider this as a national concern, citing the recent cases of suicide involving school children.
“Ang mas nakakabahala sa dumaraming insidente ng suicide ng mga kabataan ay nangyayari na ito ngayon sa mismong loob ng paaralan na dapat ay “safe spaces” para sa mga kabataan bilang kanilang ikalawang tahanan,” Senator Mark emphasized
According to several scientific studies, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for children, adolescents, and young adults globally. In the Philippines, the Department of Education (DepEd) reported that there is a total of 404 students who died by suicide during the school year 2021-2022, while 2,147 attempted to take their lives during the same time period.
“It is high time that we ask why there is a growing number of suicides among our youth and enact solutions that will help our children deal with various mental health conditions. Coordination among schools and relevant agencies should be our top priority,” Senator Mark said.
The UP Population Institute reports that 7.5% or 1.5 million youth have tried ending their lives in 2021 and 6 out 10 of them did not reach out to anyone about it. They further reported that seeking professional help among the youth was highly unpopular, with 1 out of 10 only doing so. While there are guidance counselors in both private and public schools that assist children, DepEd reports in 2021 that the ratio of counselors to students is one to 14,000 as there are only 2,093 guidance counselors despite having over 28 million students in the basic education sector.
“Ang kakulangan po ng mga guidance counselors in schools is hampering the mental health services we could have been offering to our students. The difficulty of seeking professional help should be addressed as soon as possible. Kailangan po nating gawin na mas accessible ang mental health consultations and interventions para sa ating kabataan,” Senator Mark said.
In line with this, Senator Mark filed several bills to aid the public, particularly our youth, in addressing mental health concerns including Senate Bill No. 2062 or the Comprehensive Mental Health Benefit Act which aims to expand PhilHealth’s health benefit packages to include all mental health concerns, including minors, regardless whether their parents are members or not. Another is Senate Bill No. 1637 or the Sikolohista Para sa Bayan Act which aims to hire at least one psychologist per LGU. Senator Mark also filed Senate Bill No. 1669 or the Act to Provide Early Youth Suicide Intervention and Prevention Expansion which aims to provide necessary training and awareness to concerned stakeholders within school premises and the employment of psychologists in every school.
“Ang ating hangarin na palakasin ang ating ekonomiya ay para sa kapakanan ng ating kabataan. Hindi natin maabot ang layuning ito kung hindi natin sila mabibigyan ng proteksyon mula sa mga bagay na maaring nagiging sanhi upang sila ay mawalan ng pag-asa sa buhay,” Senator Mark said.