SCHOOLS. This is where we learn and create meaningful relationships with fellow students we meet along the way. In its essence, it must be a safe place for students.

However, there lurks a disease in schools that needs to be cured -- bullying.

Throughout the years, we have heard countless stories of students being bullied. Some were severely bullied and it led them to do unimaginable things for someone their age. Some committed suicide while others harmed fellow students.

Davao City Councilor Enzo Villafuerte said schools have failed to address bullying cases within their premises.

“Nag-interview ko og mga parents kung naa ba silay experiences of bullying diri sa schools nato sa Davao, and daghan kog na-estoryahan nga naa gyud cases of bullying and wala’y ginabuhat ang mga teachers nato and principals nato para i-address ang bullying (I have talked to some parents and asked them if they have experiences of bullying here in the schools in the city, and I found out that there really existing cases but neither teachers nor principals have acted on it),” Villafuerte said during his interview on Davao City Disaster Radio on January 5, 2022.

Bullying takes a huge toll on the mental health of young people. Victims tend to show signs of depression, anxiety, stress, and detachment. They would harm themselves and be in a very dark place.

What is worse is the mental and emotional stress on these young people is being seen as just a phase. Parents would seldom seek professional health for their children who are victims of bullying. Others would just ask the victim to “pray the depression away.”

For some, what some of these kids post on social media is just seen as trivial posts. We have to start taking their posts on depression, anxiety, and sadness more seriously. These posts should be seen as red flags and interventions must be made.

The responsibility of protecting students from being bullied or preventing the birth of bullies also lies with the school officials and the parents themselves. At home, parents must teach their kids the right values like being respectful of others. Schools themselves must have safeguards in place to protect students from bullies and reprimand the bullies.

Maybe it is time that we intensify topics on good manners and right conduct in schools.

Likewise, schools must truly and intentionally capacitate all teaching and non-teaching personnel with the knowledge on identifying students who are being bullied and those who are having mental or emotional issues.

Schools must be safe places. That’s why it falls upon the responsibility of the schools and the parents that where their children go is also psychologically, mentally, and emotionally safe for other kids.

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If you are having suicidal thoughts and/or mental health crisis, do not hesitate to call for help. These are the National Center for Mental Health Crisis Hotline in the Philippines: 0966-351-4518 and 0917-899-8727 for Globe and TM users and 0908-639-2672 for Smart and TNT users.