Amid the celebration of World Mental Health Day today, October 10, Senator Win Gatchalian is reiterating his push to institutionalize mental health services in public and private schools nationwide.
Considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and prolonged school closures, Gatchalian emphasized the need to ensure that recovery efforts include psychosocial support for both learners and teachers. Gatchalian’s Basic Education Mental Health and Well-Being Promotion Act (Senate Bill No. 379) aims to institutionalize the Mental Health and Well-Being Program to provide mental health services, emotional, developmental and preventive programs, and other support services.
Under the proposed measure, the Department of Education (DepEd) will be mandated to establish and maintain a Mental Health and Well-Being Center in every public school. These centers will deliver mental and well-being services to address the mental, emotional, and developmental needs of learners, teachers, and non-teaching personnel. The DepEd will also ensure that these centers are established and maintained in all private schools.
“Dahil sa naging pinsala ng pandemya sa ating mga mag-aaral at mga guro, ngayon nila higit na kailangan ng mga serbisyo at programang mangangalaga sa kanilang mental health. Kaya naman sa pagbangon ng sektor ng edukasyon, titiyakin din natin na magkakaroon ng sapat na mental health services sa bawat paaralan ng bansa,” said Gatchalian, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education.
Gatchalian’s bill also seeks to hire and deploy mental health professionals in public elementary, secondary, and vocational institutions. To address the shortage of Guidance Counselors nationwide, Gatchalian proposes higher salaries and the creation of a sufficient number of plantilla items for the positions of Guidance Counselor. He also proposes the creation of a position to be known as Guidance Associate.
Under Gatchalian’s proposal, the Salary Grade (SG) of Guidance Counselor I will be raised from SG 11 (P25,439) to SG 16 (P38,150), Guidance Counselor II from SG 12 (P27,608) to SG 17 (P41,508), and Guidance Counselor III from SG 13 (P29,798) to SG 18 (P45,203).
Those who graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Guidance and Counseling, Psychology, Social Work, Human Services, and other allied disciplines or any related courses are qualified to serve as Guidance Associates.
Gatchalian flagged that while the DepEd requires one Guidance Counselor for every 500 students, the number of Guidance Counselors is not enough for over 28 million learners nationwide. The Philippines has only 4,069 Guidance Counselors as of June 2022 since the first batch took the licensure examinations in 2008.