Gatchalian to address bullying, mental health programs in schools

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Sunday said that he will address bullying in schools and discuss the need for more mental health programs with education stakeholders.

Gatchalian made the remark after a Quezon City Culiat High School student was stabbed to death by a schoolmate on January 20.

“Lumabas na maraming pag-aaral including PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), malala ang bullying dito sa atin,” said the senator n Super Radyo dzBB.

“Itong bullying nakakaapekto doon sa bata. Hindi lang sa bata pati sa classroom at eskwelahan dahil kung takot ‘yung mga estudyante at alam nilang mayroong bully maraming mga bata ang natatakot.”

Of the 79 countries that participated in the PISA 2018, the Philippines had the highest incidence of bullying with 65% of Filipino high school students experiencing it “at least a few times a month.”

Gatchalian, who sits as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture in the 19th Congress, said he did not want to lead the investigation into the stabbing incident.

However, he stressed that bullying needed to be immediately addressed to protect students.

“Mayroon na tayong batas on anti-bullying. Titingnan namin kung naipapatupad maigi at kung ano pa ang puwede natin gawin para mawala o mabawasan ang bullying sa ating bansa,” he said.

“Dahil ang bullying parang isang social problem ng eskwelahan natin, nakakaapekto ‘yan sa ating mga estudyante,” he added.

Republic Act 10627 or the Anti-Bullying Act of 2013, signed by then-President Benigno Aquino III, mandates all elementary and secondary schools to adopt policies to prevent and address acts of bullying in their institutions.

The law defines bullying as “any severe or repeated use by one or more students of a written, verbal or electronic expression or a physical act or gesture or any combination thereof, directed at another student that has the effect of actually causing or placing the latter in reasonable fear of physical or emotional harm or damage to his property.”

Acts considered as bullying include unwanted physical contact; any act that causes damage to a victim’s psyche and/or emotional well-being; slander; and cyber-bullying.

Under the law, school administrators who fail to comply may face administrative sanctions. Private schools, on the other hand, may lose their permit to operate.

Meanwhile, Gatchalian said that most children involved in heinous crimes have mental health issues.

“Marami sa mga batang napapasok sa krimen, lalo na ang heinous crime, mayroong mental health issues… Sila ay dumaan sa mga bagay na nakasira sa kanilang morale… kailangan matugunan ang issue sa mental health,” he added.

The senator noticed that during the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health became a much-discussed topic. However, there were no formal structures, and there was an inadequate number of school guidance counselors to address mental health problems.

“At ‘yan naman ang mga pag-uusapan namin at mayroon akong isang bill on mental health para paigtingin ang mental health solutions natin sa ating mga eskwelahan,” he said.

In August 2022, Gatchalian filed Senate Bill No. 379 or the Basic Education Mental Health and Well-Being Promotion Act “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.”

The proposed bill also seeks to institutionalize mental health services in all public and private basic education schools and to hire mental health professionals. — DVM, GMA Integrated News

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