Gatchalian bats for mental health centers in schools

Senator Win Gatchalian reiterates his efforts to institutionalize mental health services in public and private schools across the country as part of the observance of World Mental Health Day on October 10.

Given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and prolonged school closures, Gatchalian, chair of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, stressed the need to ensure that recovery efforts include support psychosocial for learners and teachers.

The Gatchalian Mental Health and Wellness Promotion in Basic Education Act (Senate Bill 379) aims to institutionalize the mental health and wellness program to provide services mental health, emotional, developmental and prevention 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 wellbeing center in every public school. These centers will provide mental and wellness services to meet the mental, emotional and developmental needs of learners, teachers and non-teaching staff. The DepEd will also ensure that these centers are established and maintained in all private schools.

Due to the adverse effects of the pandemic on our students and teachers, now is the time that they need more services and programs to take care of their mental health.

With education resuming, he cited the need to ensure sufficient mental health services in all schools across the country.

Gatchalian’s bill also aims to hire and deploy mental health professionals in public primary, secondary and professional settings.

To address the nationwide shortage of guidance counselors, Gatchalian proposes higher salaries and the creation of a sufficient number of plantilla items for guidance counselor positions.

He also proposes the creation of a position to be called a guidance associate.

According to Gatchalian’s proposal, the salary grade (SG) of Guidance Counselor I will increase 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 have completed a bachelor’s degree in guidance and counselling, psychology, social work, social services and other related disciplines or any related course are qualified to serve as guidance associates.

Gatchalian reported that while the DepEd requires one guidance counselor for every 500 students, the number of guidance counselors is not enough for more than 28 million learners nationwide.

The Philippines has only 4,069 guidance counselors as of June 2022 since the first batch took licensing exams in 2008.

Maria J. Book