At least 404 public school learners have committed suicide, and 2,147 learners attempted suicide in the Philippines in 2021 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
An official of the Department of Education said on Tuesday, calling it “an alarming rate that continues to go up.’’
Philippine Education Assistant Secretary Dexter Galban told a senate hearing that the school suicide rate “is something they will look into,’’ stressing that even one suicide case is too much.
He said the transition from face-to-face to online learning during the pandemic put a strain on the students.
Galban also told the panel that the agency believed that the 775,962 learners who sought guidance counseling in 2021 were potentially underreported given the lack of guidance counselors in public schools.
He provided the senate with a snapshot of the mental health situation in public schools and stressed the need for more mental health programs and mental health experts in schools.
The recommended ratio for the number of guidance counselors to students is one to 250, but the reality is one to 13,394, he noted. “So clearly, there is a gap to be filled.”
The Senate Committee on Basic Education said it is prepared to endorse the Department of Education’s request for a higher salary for guidance counselors in schools to ensure that the country’s youth have access to mental health programs.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian has filed the senate bill Basic Education Mental Health and Well-Being Promotion Act, which seeks to strengthen the promotion and delivery of mental health services in primary education schools.
This he said through institutionalizing the mental health and well-being program and prescribing the hiring and deployment of mental health professionals.