Mental health and well being of Filipino children amidst pandemic
By Beberly B. Ablay
In this present time, in which various factors make our well-being somewhat compromised and slowly deteriorating. For instance, our state of financial stability, physical health, and more especially our mental health. It is a dreadful event to our lives if our health is being compromised, more specifically, our mental health. Given that in this present time, due to the adverse and rapid spread of the COVID-19 that has brought problems and circumstances to our lives, one can’t deny that it seriously affects our mental stability. If we scale the effects of this pandemic on our mental health and compare it to our everyday lives in the pre-pandemic years, it has skyrocketed by a hundredfold. Imagine how it drastically affects us—who we address as somewhat “the fortunate ones,” what more to those people who are less fortunate in which their daily living expenses are still a burden on their end. Mental health deterioration is an enormous and dreadful event once a cumbersome load has stacked up with a heavier and massive problem. This should be addressed at this very exact moment.
It is undeniable that one person can experience one or more problems at a time. It is not new since we are living in a world where everything changes in a single snap of fingers. Your problem might be an effect of someone else’s actions, and it might be reflected on you. Who would have thought that the problems in this world are all associated with our actions and others’ actions as well? The very best thing that we should do and be mindful of is to always look into possible solutions to that problem, or if not, conceptualize various ways in order to minimize or more likely surpass the existing and forthcoming problems. But keeping the statements aside, we should also look into a broader perspective that no matter how we are good at plotting solutions to those problems that we have, there are still instances that we are getting carried away and be engulfed by problems causing too much pressure and stress which might lead to a more severe concern such as depression and if not totally reinforced, might lead to death.
I might say that due to this pandemic, more and more cases of mental health problems have arisen. From the moment that we are mandated and restricted to go outside our homes, nothing to be done at all, thinking of how and when this pandemic would end so that we could go back to the days when everything is still in good shape and condition, we all thought that in a span of days and months this pandemic would stop, but look at us now, we are still battling this invisible antagonist of our lives well, in fact, it adds up to our existing worries and problems. During the first two (2) months of our community quarantine, we have done more of surfing the internet, bingeing a variety of movies and series on Netflix, even learned how to cook a variety of food, and became a “certified” plantito/plantita,” and other pieces of stuff. But these extravagant things that we have done before might not be as extraordinary if those would become routine activities rather than being a sort of hobby and spare-time activities. I guess you would agree to these. Days have passed, and these days became weeks, weeks became months, and months became a year, and one revolution of the earth to the sun became two revolutions, and up until this very moment, we are still in the pandemic. Time flies really fast, right? And so, our mental health is also flying; the same goes for how the years have passed. Filipino children are among the most affected group.
Filipino children is one of the priority of the government understanding that 40% of the Filipino population is composed of children aged 18 years of age and below. Under the Philippine Development Plan for 2017 - 2023, it gives emphasis that children are among the most vulnerable group in the society thus including them in strategic planning for risk reduction and adaptive capacity strengthening. World Health Organization (WHO ) findings showed that 16.8% of Filipino students aged 13 to 17 have attempted suicide. The statistics shows that mental health among children must be properly addressed remembering what Dr. Jose Rizal have mentioned that “ Kabataan ang pag asa ng bayan”. Efforts should be made to addressed what are the root causes of such problem for proper treatment and prevention. If not properly addressed, situation may worsen as they grow and develop into adult. During the Covid - 19 pandemic, the number of school children suffering from mental health increased.
In the assessment conducted, the result shows that mental illness rank as the 3rd most common form of morbidity among Filipinos, a prevalence of 16% of mental disorders among children were recorded based from the survey and record by the National Statistics Office (NSO).The government are also doing its best to address the situation, but then there are only five(5) government hospital with psychiatric facilities for children, 84 hospitals with psychiatric unit 46 outpatient facilities from which there are only 11 that are designated for children and adolescents.There are insufficient facilities to cater children’s needs with regards to mental problems that is why many children are not properly diagnosed and treated. Aside from the fact that there are limited facilities, additional sad truth to our government is that we have only 60 child psychiatrists practicing in the Philippines and most of them are rendering service at urban areas such as in National Capital Region thus the patients in rural areas are being neglected.
There are many factors that contributed to anxiety and depression among Filipino young children. The occurrence of the Covid-19 pandemic lessen the outside activities of children thus they are indulged in indoor activities most are using new technologies such as gadgets, more time were devoted in playing online games thus eating and sleeping schedule were affected. It is with sad reality to find out that child labor and abused also increased. In a study entitled The Hidden Impact of Covid -19 on Children shows that one-third (32%) of violence occurred in household. According to UNICEF, the Philippines saw a 260% increase in online child abuse. Parents of this young children are the first abusers, they are the one who directly involved in selling and prostituting the young children. This occurrence resulted from loss of job and income of parents due to Covid - 19 outbreak.
To address the problem numerous strategies were also initiated, the Psychological Association of the Philippines has compiled a list of free telemedicine consultations. The Department of Health has also conducted nationwide campaigns in observance of National Mental Health Week.
More and more cases of mental health illnesses, more specifically depression, is mainly experienced by the youth. With this being said, what should be done by all people in authority—that includes teachers, psychologists, psychometricians, guidance counselors, and the likes—should be instilling the youth the importance of life, the assurance of being listened to and understood, and how can these people be of great help to surpass their extremely dreadful experiences. Social Emotional Learning can be of immense benefit not just for the sake of students’ emotional and mental health but also their skills academically.
It is of great challenged to teachers how each of us will be able to address and help lessen the preset situation on children’s anxiety and depression. We can be of great help to them by simply listening on their problems.
In this regard, it is vital for everyone, not just for teachers and psychologists, who should be mindful of mental the concepts and ideas of mental health. But these people with more excellent knowledge to mitigate mental health illnesses will be of big help to counterattack the skyrocketing number of cases of mental health illnesses. Through platforms like this, everyone is able to grasp important information as to mental health awareness and further spread the information to everybody. Above all, we are the linkage to strengthen the mental health awareness of all Filipinos so that we could have a better living.
Health Promotion Perspective