By: Reinhold Gabriel B. Catangay
Last May 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic pestered the world with a then untreatable and deadly virus that forced everyone to isolate themselves from the comfort of their homes. Everyone, in different parts of the world, was mentally and physically affected by the global health crisis. Here in the Philippines, one of the affected sectors was the young generation of students. Most of them may have experienced anxiety and shock due to the damaging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The students’ mental health concerns matter, especially now that public schools have braced for the beginning of in-person classes again and everyone will once again be required to adapt to the now normal.
With this, Malayan Colleges Laguna, A Mapúa School’s Center for Guidance and Counseling (MCL CGC), in collaboration with the MCL’s Center for Service-Learning and Community Engagement (MCL CSCE), conducted its first in-person seminar on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) with the students of the Don Jose Integrated High School (DJIHS). Before the program began, Ms. Catherine G. Javier, the School Principal, awarded a plaque of appreciation to the CSCE, represented by the department’s Director, Ms. Jocelyn T. Bellin. The award was in recognition of the MCL as one of the school’s top stakeholders and for its outstanding support in conducting improvement-based engagements throughout the pandemic.
Studying at home does not necessarily equate to comfortability and this was proven by almost all students for more than two (2) years of learning fully online (Amadora, 2020). Being restricted from going out meant limited personal relationships throughout the entire duration of the lockdown, and this could have caused the students’ difficulty in getting back to school for the resumption of face-to-face classes. Hence, this and more were the focus of the MHPSS seminar delivered by MCL CGC.
Grade 7 & 8 students of Don Jose Integrated High School (DJIHS) at the opening of the program.
(Photo by Reinhold Gabriel Catangay, MCL-CSCE)
During the seminar with the students of DJIHS, Ms. Joy P. Tarzona, RGC, of MCL CGC discussed the mental and psychosocial effects of adjusting to a lot of changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. As students are now slowly transcending into a new chapter of their lives, the need for supervision and guidance is even greater under the hands of experts in the field.
Growing into a fine, self-knowing, and mature individual requires a lot of understanding. However, without the ability to discern what is right from wrong, one can never truly understand others if they cannot understand themselves from within. Ms. Tarzona commenced her discussion with this food for thought as the Grades 7 and 8 students attentively listened to her.
Raising awareness on the core tenets of MHPSS, through the promotion of self-seeking behaviors and emotional well-being. In doing so, this program sought to build resiliency of students through greater self-awareness by understanding one’s emotions and foster one’s welfare.
As the program progressed, Ms. Tarzona, asked what mental health is – one of the grade 8 students, described it as the ‘feeling that triggers anxiety and depression when not addressed and properly taken care of.’ One reason mental health is not often talked about is due to the stigma attached to it. Hence, people tend to invalidate the relevance of the issue. Ms. Tarzona strongly encouraged the students and teachers to address mental health challenges and treat it as not something to be ashamed of. Fortunately, more people are now opening to the idea of mental health primarily due to the damaging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and a lot of them are now encouraging therapy to address similar concerns. Ms. Tarzona further explained that mental health values self-care – the act of looking after one’s own mental well-being.
All these come from understanding one’s emotions, whether it may be caused by internal or external factors, nonetheless, both affect how one views themselves. With that, the importance of self-awareness comes in. According to Ms. Joy, being self-aware requires consistency. She suggested that students should stick to a routine that is healthy for them and eat nutritious foods to keep their mind lively. Meditation and keeping a journal would do a lot of help as well as jotting down what one cannot say helps them channel their feelings onto something, which will ease the feeling of being burdened by pent up emotions.
Ms. Joy P. Tarzona, RGC, on having an outlet for venting out for psychosocial
support and awareness. (Photo by Reinhold Gabriel Catangay, MCL-CSCE).
Ms. Tarzona mentioned that another way of adapting to the now normal is venting out or having someone to talk to — who truly listens and understands — can prove to be a huge factor in staying healthy mentally. In doing so, one does not only let up their emotions but also engages in a proper discussion which can prompt growth and self-improvement. This person can either be one’s parent, Friend, significant other, but most importantly, an expert and certified therapist.
Ms. Tarzona proceeded to conduct a ‘grounding’ exercise, where some of the students eagerly participated in. One of the students was asked to name some things she can see, feel, hear, smell, and taste. The reason being was further developing her sense of self-awareness by taking deep breaths and recognizing her senses in helping her focus and reflect on herself.
Ms. Tarzona answered some of the questions raised by the participants. A faculty member of DJIHS asked what the other ways could be done to vent one’s emotions and prevent further harm, in which Ms. Tarzona answered – this could be in the form of writing, spending time doing one’s hobbies, but the best would be talking it out with a therapist. If one is not available, a trusted guardian or a friend would do as they do not need to say anything but simply listen and hear you out and that goes a long way. Simply put, channeling one’s time and energy into doing positive things will go a long way.
Mr. Diosdado D. Villeta, Head Teacher 1 of DJIHS, thanked Ms. Joy P. Tarzona, RGC, and the CSCE for initiating such an important and timely issue. Mr. Villeta showed his gratitude by thanking Ms. Tarzona for giving them the opportunity to undergo a physical seminar facilitated by a registered guidance counselor who values the importance of psychosocial and mental well-being.
The DJIHS awarded Ms. Joy P. Tarzona, RGC, with a certificate in recognition of her expertise on MHPSS through the conduct of a seminar promoting a healthy space where students can talk about mental well-being without the fear of being judged, and in advocating that psychosocial and mental health are not something to be ashamed of.