DePEd, DOH, DSWD urged to fight student suicide, bullying
MANILA, Philippines — The extent of bullying and suicide cases among students continues to upset the government, civil society, and health experts so much that they want to scale up interventions to address the problem.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the Senate basic education committee, on Monday said the Department of Education (DepEd) must come up with proactive measures to ensure that schools would be a safe place for students.
Save the Children Philippines, a child rights advocacy organization, urged the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to work with DepEd in preventing student suicides and attempts.
Gatchalian cited separate studies by the Programme for International Student Assessment and the World Health Organization that revealed that 65 percent (17.5 million) of Filipino elementary and high school students had suffered from various forms of bullying in 2018.
“This is quite worrisome and concerning because (seven) out of 10 students experience some forms of bullying,” said Gatchalian, noting that the Philippines topped 70 countries where bullying in schools was prevalent, adding that the ranking was inversely proportional to the academic performance of students age 10 to 17.
“Bullying is an education problem, an international phenomenon that we have to study,” Gatchalian said as he presided over the Senate inquiry into the implementation of Republic Act No. 10627 or the Anti-Bullying Act of 2013.Adolescent depression
Dr. Ma. Lourdes Carandang, founder of the MLAC Institute for Psychosocial Services Inc., told the Senate hearing that bullying was directly related to the issue of mental health and that assistance should also be extended to persons committing such acts.
Carandang said incidents of bullying had been proven to result in adolescent depression and “suicidal ideation” or suicidal tendencies.
“From our experience, bullying — cyberbullying, emotional bullying and social exclusion — among adolescents is linked to depression and suicidal ideation,” she said. “So I think that’s definitely a mental health issue.”
Gatchalian said a Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics in 2019 study showed that learners who did not experience bullying scored significantly better in math, reading and science subjects, saying, “There’s really a direct correlation between how our students learn and bullying.”
Save the Children said in a statement, “The gravity of the issue cannot be overlooked as the suicide rates may even increase in the coming years, if left unaddressed.”
The organization urged the DOH to prioritize integrating mental health care into primary care by increasing the accessibility of mental health services and training primary care professionals.
It called on the DSWD to “complement social welfare programs with child-friendly, community-based mental health programs that address not only individual mental health and psychosocial needs but the overall psychosocial needs of the family unit as well.”
It also asked DepEd to ensure that there is enough school personnel to support the students and help them with their psychosocial challenges.
“We have to break the stigma and tear down the environment of shame that have cloaked generations of children in silence and prevented them from enjoying their right to live in a safe and healthy environment,” lawyer Alberto Muyot, who heads Save the Children, said.