Following the Senate’s third and final reading approval of the Basic Education Mental Health and Well-Being Promotion Act (Senate Bill No. 2200), Senator Win Gatchalian hailed a significant step forward in addressing what he called a pandemic of mental health woes.
Senate Bill No. 2200, which Gatchalian authored and sponsored, seeks to institutionalize the School-Based Mental Health Program to promote and ensure the mental health and well-being of learners in public and private basic education institutions. The bill also covers out-of-school children in special cases that include learners with disabilities or conditions, indigenous peoples, children in conflict with the law, learners in emergency situations, and other marginalized sectors.
The bill mandates the Department of Education (DepEd) to establish and maintain Care Centers in every public basic education institution and ensure their establishment and maintenance in private basic education institutions. Care Centers will be mandated to equip learners with skills and information for prevention, identification, and proper response and referral for their own and others’ mental health needs.
Care Centers shall also facilitate the efficient referral for appropriate intervention to, and provision of adequate aftercare support by other appropriate agencies, institutions, organizations, or professionals. The Centers are further mandated to improve the mental health awareness and literacy of teaching and non-teaching personnel.
To address the need for enough personnel running the School-Based Mental Health Program, the bill creates the new plantilla positions of Mental Health Associates I to V, and Mental Health Specialists I to V. The bill also seeks the conversion of existing plantilla positions of Guidance Counselors and Psychologists in the DepEd to Mental Health Specialists.
Gatchalian previously pointed out that as of July 2022, there were only 1,192 filled positions for both guidance counselors and coordinators within the DepEd. For School Year 2023-2024, the DepEd said that more than 26 million learners are enrolled.
Meanwhile, the DepEd said that 404 learners from public schools died by suicide for School Year 2021-2022.