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Is distance learning becoming detrimental to Filipino students' mental health?

By Brooke Villanueva Published Oct 21, 2020 4:34 am Updated Oct 21, 2020 12:55 pm

Is distance learning really effective? Or is it proving to be detrimental?

Last October 5, the Department of Education (DepEd) proceeded with its decision to allow students continue with school amid the pandemic. Barely a month into it, the 2020-2021 school year opening has already caused heated discussions among various individuals—including mental health advocates.

Tinig ng Plaridel (TNP), UP College of Mass Communication’s official student pub, said that more and more students have been “seeking psychosocial help” from UP mental health providers “only weeks into the semester.”

TNP stressed that since the launch of UP Diliman Psychosocial Services (UPD PsycServ) in 2017, September 2020 recorded the most number of sign-ups in just one month.

At present, the organization is dealing with a two-month long list of patients waiting to avail their free services via SMS or call.

“May increase so far sa number of sign-ups na nag-i-indicate that they are having problems with online classes,” UPD PsycServ Clinic Manager Claudine Tecson explained in the report. The list includes those with preexisting mental health issues, she added.

Among the reasons behind their mental health consultations, Tecson continued, include “safety, health-related anxiety, feelings of isolation and frustration toward the pandemic response.”

As for UP Diliman’s sole resident psychiatrist Dr. Dinah Nadera, next to anxiety, sleep hygiene and concentration problems have also prompted students to seek therapy.

Ngayon pa lang, may mga estudyante na who are thinking of dropping, who are already worried about their attention and concentration and who feel very unprepared and inadequate for [remote] learning,” Nadera disclosed.

To address the service center being fully booked, Nadera has been willingly attending to patients outside her work hours, “with 10 to 15 individuals who have concerns on medication, symptom progression, and self-harm,” the Tinig ng Plaridel article read. This is a significant jump from five to seven patients she used to monitor back then.

Unfortunate suicide incidents have also circulated online relating to the alleged struggles that come with distance learning such as increased workload, poor internet connectivity, lack of learning materials, among others.

Yet, in a statement, DepEd urged the public to “stop directly connecting” suicide to modules or online learning.

“We have received police blotters, incident reports, statements of families and initial investigation of the cases, and none of them referred to distance learning as the primary cause,” the government agency said, opposing those “(using) these unfortunate events to discredit the efforts of the Department.”

DepEd added that it will reach out to teachers, staff, and students to provide them with mental health and psychosocial services if at all. “We likewise request everyone to stay in touch and stay connected to our loved ones during these challenging times. Together, we shall overcome,” the agency said.

If you feel like you need urgent mental help, you may reach the Department of Health’s National Center for Mental Health at their 24/7 Crisis Hotline numbers 0917-899-8727 (USAP) and 989-8727 (USAP).