Senator Win Gatchalian has filed a bill that seeks to strengthen the promotion and delivery of mental health services in the country’s basic education schools.
Senate Bill No. 379 or the Basic Education Mental Health and Well-Being Promotion Act, one of Gatchalian’s priority measures for the 19th Congress, seeks to urgently counter the negative effects of the pandemic school closures on the mental health and socio-emotional development of learners, teachers and other non-teaching personnel. In the long-term, it aims to institutionalize the Mental Health and Well-Being Program, which will provide mental health services, emotional, developmental and preventive programs, and other support services in all public and private basic education schools. The proposed measure also seeks to hire mental health professionals and deploy them to public elementary, secondary, and vocational institutions.
The measure also seeks to establish a Mental Health and Well-Being Center in every public and private basic education school in the country. The Center will be responsible for delivering mental health and well-being services.
To address the shortage of Guidance Counselors nationwide, Gatchalian pushes for the creation of a sufficient number of plantilla items for the positions of Guidance Counselor and Guidance Associate, a new position created under the measure. A Guidance Associate should be a graduate of Bachelor’s degree in Guidance and Counseling, Psychology, Social Work, Human Services, and other allied disciplines or any related courses.
Gatchalian also proposes to raise the Salary Grades (SG) of Guidance Counselor I 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).
While the Department of Education requires basic education schools to hire one Guidance Counselor for every 500 students, Gatchalian points out that the Philippines has only 4,069 Guidance Counselors as of June 2022 since the first batch took the licensure examinations in 2008. Gatchalian flags that with 27.4 million elementary and high school schools, the desired ratio of 1:500 Guidance Counselor to students is not being met.
“Titiyakin natin na ang ating mga paaralan ay may sapat na bilang ng mga propesyonal at dalubhasa pagdating sa mental health. Napapanahon ito lalo na’t patuloy tayong bumabangon mula sa pinsala ng pandemya, kung saan nakita natin ang matinding pinsala sa mental health ng ating mga guro at mga mag-aaral,” said Gatchalian.
Gatchalian pointed out that his proposed measure supports DepEd’s learning recovery plan, which also seeks to address the socio-emotional and behavioral recovery of learners.