Senator Win Gatchalian has proposed the creation of a line item for mental health programs under the Department of Education (DepEd), which will have a corresponding budget of P160 million for 2024.
Gatchalian pointed out that despite the alarming prevalence of bullying in the country’s schools and the number of learners who attempted or died by suicide, there is no specific budget for mental health programs under the DepEd. The lawmaker seeks to address this by creating a line item, which will be known as “Strengthening Mental Health Programs and Advocacies.”
“We were quite shocked to learn that from 2017 to date, 7,892 students attempted suicide, and 1,686 learners died by suicide. This is a very concerning phenomenon in our school system, and I would recommend increasing the budgetary allocation for mental health programs to address all of these concerns,” said Gatchalian during his interpellation of the DepEd’s proposed budget for 2024.
It can be recalled that out of 79 countries that participated in the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the Philippines had the highest percentage of 15-year old learners who reported experiencing bullying. Sixty-five percent of these learners reported experiencing bullying a few times a month.
Analysis of the 2019 Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics (SEA-PLM) data by the senator’s office also revealed that compared to learners from other countries in the ASEAN, the Philippines’ Grade 5 learners had the highest exposure to bullying (63.2%), aggression (9.2%), violence (12.3%), and offensive behavior (28.8%).
Gatchalian has been pushing for the enactment of the Basic Education Mental Health and Well-Being Promotion Act (Senate Bill No. 2200), which seeks to institutionalize the School-Based Mental Health Program, and promote and ensure the mental health and well-being of learners in public and private basic education institutions. The Senate approved the proposed measure on third and final reading last September.