ROTC training can ‘cure’ mental health issues, says Galvez

Mental health problems can be “cured” through the training provided under the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program, Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said Monday. 

Carlito Galvez Jr.

(Updated: 4:39 p.m., February 6, 2023)

MANILA, Philippines — While he presented no data to back his claim, Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. on Monday said that mental health problems can be “cured” through the training provided under the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program.

Galvez, who cited his experience as an educator, said the “experiential” learnings from the ROTC program can help improve the “frustration tolerance” of students as compared to the National Service Training Program.

“Iyong survival instincts, nandoon. Iyong sinasabi natin na mental health problem, it can be cured kasi iyong frustration tolerance ng tao [ay] tataas,” he said during a Senate subcommittee hearing on the proposed revival of mandatory ROTC in the country.

(They’ll learn survival instincts there. The so-called mental health problem can be cured, because the people’s frustration tolerance will increase.)

Galvez pointed out that the training under the ROTC program can expose them to “worse” experiences.

“Meron siyang makukuhang experience na, ‘Bakit ako naghihimutok e ganito iyong nakikita natin na mas malala pa pala iyong ginagawa ng ibang tao. Meaning, iyong mental [problems], pwede siyang ma-cure,” he further argued.

(They will acquire experiences that will make them think, ‘Why am I sulking over this when other people have it worse? Meaning, these mental problems can be cured.)

Recalling his stint as a combat leader, Galvez also noted that soldiers are not just trained to become mentors and leaders but also counselors.

“Na-expose ako. Marami sa amin ang [nagkaroon ng] post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) pero nabigyan namin ng counselling and because of the counselling, nagbago iyong tao,” he added.

(I was exposed. Many of us had PTSD but because we were able to provide counseling to them, these people were changed.)

‘Problem: Sweeping generalizations on mental health’

Ver Reyes of the Psychological Association of the Philippines questioned Galvez’s claim as she noted that the solution to mental health problems are “not all encompassing.”

“We cannot clump mental health in one area. To clump it together, parang hindi siya appropriate to say that it is a cure [it doesn’t seem appropriate to say that it is a cure],” she told over the phone.

Reyes also noted that she was unfamiliar with a study that points to ROTC training as a theory-based cure to mental health problems.

“Because if it is, dapat pinag-aaralan namin siya as a form of therapy, for example, pero hindi kasi siya accepted in mainstream therapy sessions or therapeutic strategies,” she added.

(Because if it is then, we should be studying it as a form of therapy, for example, but it’s not accepted in mainstream therapy sessions or therapeutic strategies.)

She then pointed out that counseling, which requires certification and licensure, is a different practice from that of psychology and therapy.

“Counseling doesn’t just happen because you talk to this person,” Reyes said. “We need to understand first ano iyong elements involved sa mental health. Baka iyon kasi iyong nagiging problem natin. We give sweeping generalizations pero not necessarily understand what mental health and well-being actually is.”

(We need to understand first what elements are involved in mental health. That may be our problem. We give sweeping generalizations but not necessarily understand what mental health and well-being is.)

Talks about mental health issues of the Filipino youth have recently been fueled anew after the Department of Education (DepEd) revealed that 404 young students across the country took their own lives while 2,147 others attempted suicide during the Academic Year 2021-2022.

Vice President and DepEd chief Sara Duterte had also recognized that many young learners “experience emotional abuse and exhaustion” with some of their woes drawn from psychological fatigue.

READ: Mental health crisis: 404 student suicides in 2021-22 

Rep. Raoul Manuel of Kabataan, one of those legislators disturbed by the situation, has since announced his intention to file a resolution in the House of Representatives calling on the government of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to declare a mental health emergency in the country.


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