According to latest figures from the Department of Education, 404 students died by suicide during the 2021-2022 school year, with a staggering 2,147 attempting suicide during the same time period.
Atty. Alberto Muyot, Save the Children Philippines CEO, said:
“The mental health crisis in the Philippines is a national emergency. Children and young people have emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic and the physical and mental health challenges it brought, into a society that is even more unequal than before the pandemic.
“The government must urgently intervene by investing in mental health services across healthcare, protection, education and welfare. But ultimately it must do more to support and protect children from disadvantaged backgrounds and create a more equal society. Children from all backgrounds and identities have the right to survive, learn and be protected.”
Save the Children has been working in the Philippines since 1981 with programmes in humanitarian response, health and nutrition, education, and children's rights and protection. As part of its mental health and psychosocial support, the organisation runs programmes in mental health literacy, including training for parents and caregivers and provision of materials and technical trainings for teachers.
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Save the Children in the Philippines is calling for the following:
- The Department of Health must mainstream mental health services into primary care, increasing both availability and accessibility of mental health support, and investing in training staff.
- The Department for Social Welfare and Development must complement social welfare programmes with child-friendly community-based mental health programmes that address psychosocial needs of entire families.
- Mental health services should be strengthened to support children with disabilities, indigenous children, children in alternative care, and other disadvantaged children.
- The Department for Education (DepEd) must develop and implement school-based mental health programmes to help students cope with stressors arising from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues such as gender-based violence and bullying. DepEd must invest in staff who can support students with mental health needs, including necessary referrals to other professionals, if needed.