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EXPERTS SAY: Peer support needed to face school stress

Students trained to aid fellows facing mental stress

By Ernesto Delgado

LEGAZPI CITY --- Mariel (pseudonym) dedicates extended hours to complete school assignments on her laptop, facing constant pressure and uncertainty that often leave her exhausted and overwhelmed, sometimes leading to tears of frustration.

This mirrors the experiences of many first-year college students in Sorsogon province. To address these challenges, tertiary schools in the region have formed peer counseling groups, as shared by Pamela Viñas, the regional education supervisor of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), during the Kapihan sa PIA forum. Viñas explained that CHED-trained peer counselors aim to assist students in resolving conflicts and tackling various peer-related problems, including mental health issues.

Despite the availability of peer support and guidance counselors in Sorsogon schools, Viñas noted that students may be hesitant to confide in professional counselors due to the stigma associated with mental health concerns. She expressed concerns about students fearing judgment or being labeled as mentally unwell or involved in wrongdoing. Regina Gonzalgo, the mental health focal person at the Sorsogon Provincial Health Office, shared alarming statistics, revealing that 38 individuals, including two students aged 15 and 19, died by suicide in 2023, with four others attempting to do so. Gonzalgo highlighted prevalent mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, disruptive behavior, dissocial disorders, depression, and anxiety disorders among Sorsogonons.

Sheila Maria Morada, the coordinator of the mental health and psychological support system at the Sorsogon Schools Division Office, emphasized the widespread occurrence of mental health disorders among basic education students. In response, each school in Sorsogon employs a guidance counselor who also serves as a school nurse to promote mental health and well-being.

Mariel’s mental health suffered significantly during the previous school year due to intense academic pressure, causing anxiety—the prevailing mental health challenge among her generation—to take its toll. Dr. Gladys Escote, head of the Department of Health’s field office in Sorsogon, emphasized the difficulty of recognizing mental health conditions due to their lack of physical symptoms.

For those seeking government mental health support, the Department of Health’s crisis hotline can be contacted at 0908-639-2672 (Smart/Sun/TNT) and 0966-351-4518, and 0917-899-USAP (8727) (Globe/TM).


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