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How important is it for parents and teachers to look after their mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic?
Philippine Mental Health Association (PMHA), Inc. National Executive Director, Dr. Carolina Uno-Rayco has underscored the importance of parents and teachers to take care of their mental health as the new realities of the pandemic are starting to set in especially now that some private schools have already started online classes.
“It is important that we, as parents and teachers, also take care of our mental health. Tayo muna, sa atin mag sisimula. Our students, our children actually take from us,” Rayco said during the online Orientation-Meeting regarding PMHA Mental Health and Psychosocial Support for Frontline Health Workers.
Rayco said that whatever the children sees, they emulate.
“So when they see that we are super stressed, super anxious, then most likely they will also feel that way. They may also behave in a manner that may show their anxiety,” she added.
Rayco noted, without explaining in detail, that children manifest their anxiety and negative feelings in a “very different way.”
“So, it is better that we should start taking care of our mental health first. Set boundaries, although this is very difficult especially now that everyone is working from home, studying at home,” Rayco said as she stressed the importance of practicing physical and psychological boundaries.
DepEd’s Psychosocial support
In order to further strengthen the role of parents and teachers as the education frontline amid the pandemic, the Department of Education (DepEd) is conducting a series of Psychosocial Support and Training for parents, teachers, school heads and identified DepEd region and division non-teaching personnel as the opening of School Year 2020-2021 approaches.
Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones also said that when classes start on October 5, students will receive psychosocial support for at least two weeks.
For parents, the Department launched in July “Gabay Bahay: An Online Parenting Series,” a weekly online learning activity with the goal of engaging parents in protecting the health, safety and well-being of their children.
This is in line with the Department’s goal of protecting and fulfilling the rights of a child anchored on the Convention on the Rights of Children especially during community quarantine.
With the pandemic, the task of educating students has become more challenging because schools are temporarily halted and the DepEd saw that parents could be vital in fulfilling the continuity of learning.
As implementing partners of the online parenting series, Save the Children prepared the modules that were discussed in the sessions while Globe Telecom Inc. provided the resource persons. This online activity started last July 15 and aired its last episode on August 19.
The Psychosocial Support and Training on Wellness ran until September 11 with topics that included self-care, intellectual and financial wellness, environmental wellness, social and vocational wellness and other dimensions of wellness which were led by professionals in psychosocial support.
“Isolated but not alone”
To ensure the mental stability of the top leaders at department, Briones emphasized the need to help each other as she led the fourth and final group session of DepEd’s Kaginhawaan of Top Leaders earlier.
“I thought that we needed to assure each other in the department that we are for each other and that we will hold each other’s hands. That we are going to be together because the magnitude of the change that DepEd is facing is so much greater than perhaps what other departments are facing,” Briones said.
Briones pointed out her experiences during the pandemic, especially when she was infected by Covid-19, and how she carried on in leading the department’s initiatives for the upcoming school year.
Intense degree of anxiety
“I am very happy that this little exercise that we engaged in has really taken place and what pushed me to suggest it [Director] Roni [Co] and the others is that I was also undergoing the same, if not much more, intense degree of anxiety, of fear and insecurity as DepEd has been adjusting and planning, and trying to make sure that education continues even as we have this pandemic,” she added.
The event, spearheaded by the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Service (DRRMS), served as a culminating activity for the series of psychosocial support activities held for the members of the Management Committee (ManCom) to make sure that their psychosocial well-being and mental health are taken care of.
In the session titled “Isolated but not alone: Hindi ka nag-isa”, Dr. Lourdes Ladrido-Ignacio, a Professor Emeritus at the University of the Philippines, discussed various concepts that were inclined towards mental health and said that social and spiritual needs ought to be fulfilled to have a healthy life.
Following the talk, an activity called “Ginhawa: Well-being in Everyday Life,” which was led by Dr. Henrietta Espanola, an Associate Professor at the West Visayas State University, was conducted to focus on finding silence through Zen meditation.
All of the participants were advised to assume the proper posture and perform relaxation and breathing techniques as they were encouraged to lend time for themselves to meditate or find peace as part of their break time and to take care of their mental health amidst the challenges the Department is facing because of the pandemic.
The previous sessions covered various topics and activities such as understanding the different dimensions of psychosocial well-being, how to achieve kaginhawaan (wellness) in one’s daily life and its relationship with the core essentials of leadership, Zen meditation, self-care techniques, application of arts-based coping strategies, and other concepts related to psychosocial recovery, resilience, and wellness.
The Kaginhawaan sessions for the top leaders of DepEd sessions is part of the Mental Health and Psychological Support Services (MHPSS) initiatives of the DepEd.