Editorial: Center on mental wellness of students

PREVENT SELF-HARM. The emotional, cognitive, social and holistic wellness of students is still being tested even as the educational system gradually returns to the traditional and the mainstream. (SunStar file)
PREVENT SELF-HARM. The emotional, cognitive, social and holistic wellness of students is still being tested even as the educational system gradually returns to the traditional and the mainstream. (SunStar file)

The resumption of face-to-face classes has been embraced by students and their families and educators as a sign of the return to the “normal.”

The pandemic’s social isolation and consequent dependence on technology altered not just learning systems but experiences in the educational process.

Mental health was a primary concern during the approximately two years that the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) peaked in transmission.

While vaccinations and a marked decrease in Covid-19 infections has returned nearly all schools into full face-to-face classes, mental health must not be relegated to the margins.

Mental health professionals point out that mental health measures a person’s capability to cope with stress, decision-making and living with the consequences of actions and behavior.

Face-to-face classes seemingly return students to the social environment before the Covid-19 pandemic; however, the interregnum of the pandemic and the lockdowns continues to leave its mark.

Many students work to sustain their studies. Online classes lent a degree of flexibility to those who juggled a job or more to cover tuition and data for remote learning.

Many coeds already worked before the pandemic. However, the economic lockdown led to widespread unemployment, slowing or cessation of entrepreneurial activities and premature retirement.

Many youths took over the breadwinner’s role in families that often have more than one member still going to school. Communication sophomore Mariel, who started as a virtual assistant in 2020, enrolled for an irregular academic load this first semester.

Aside from balancing work and studies, Mariel gives daily allowances to two younger siblings in the elementary. A younger brother could not proceed to college this semester and chose to work. The lockdowns forced Mariel’s father to stop his rent-a-car gig; non-payment of a bank loan led to the loss of the family car.

The multiple challenges testing family and personal relationships add to the burdens of Mariel, who has yet to improve her class attendance and catch up with class requirements. She plans to look for a better paying job and contemplates putting her studies on hold.

At the height of the pandemic, school administrators and subject matter teachers calibrated academic requirements and rating standards in a bid to reduce the pressure and stress faced by students and their families.

With the resumption of face-to-face classes, educators have lifted the formal policy or informal observance of the understanding that students are not to be failed but only mentored and steered to meet the challenges of remote learning.

There should not be a sweeping assumption that the easing of the pandemic transposes to expectations that students are full-on in their commitment and concentration on their studies.

At the least, the resumption of face-to-face classroom learning should be observed as continuing the transition of the educational process to allow the youths and their families maximum opportunities to align their personal life with academia.

Mental wellness is a continuing concern, given that youths are vulnerable in their ability to cope with pressure and stress, which continue with the resumption of face-to-face classes, academic demands and challenges of daily life.

Compared to the 574,000 or three percent of Filipino youths who considered ending their life in 2013, about 1.5 million youths considered suicide in 2021, more than doubled at seven percent.

This is according to the 2021 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study (YAFSS) of the University of the Philippines Population Institute (UPPI).

As reported by the Rappler on Oct. 16, 2022, the UPPI YAFSS recorded a general decline in mental wellness among the respondents: 10,949 randomly selected youths aged 15 to 24 from randomly selected barangays, who participated in the 2021 survey.

Helping youths, particularly students, cope with stressors should remain at the center of learning.


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