Youth and Students of Mindanao Hold an Assembly for Mental Health 

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Davao City — More than 100 hundred student-leaders and mental health advocates are now in Davao City to attend a “Youth Assembly for Mental Health.” Participants include young leaders from Lanao del Sur and Upi, Maguindanao, Cotabato City, General Santos City, Cagayan de Oro, and Davao City.

Organized by Multiply-Ed (X-Ed), in collaboration with PRO-Health, this one-day event aims to craft the youth and student agenda on mental health. It will also culminate in the launching of a Youth Assembly for Mental Health in Mindanao that will spearhead a national campaign to mobilize the youth around mental health issues.

This gathering of young leaders is X-Ed’s response to the serious mental health situation in the country.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of 2015, 10% to 15% of Filipino students between the ages of 5 and 15 have mental health issues. The same United Nations agency further reported that 16.8% of Filipino students between the ages of 13 and 17 attempted suicide at least once in the year before the conduct of the 2015 Global School-based Student Health survey.

The 2021 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study (YAFS5) also revealed that 17% of young people aged 15 to 24 had suicidal thoughts, 1/3 of whom experience suicide ideation more than once. The report further indicated that 7.5% of Filipino youth or almost 1.5 million youth, ever tried ending their lives. Unfortunately, according to YAFS5, only 11% of Filipino youth know of any suicide prevention program or service, while 62% did not reach to anyone about their suicide ideations, and only 2% who experienced suicide attempt reached out to a professional.

On the other hand, the government allocated Php12 million for mental health awareness and hotline under the 2023 national budget. It also has set aside Php2.15 billion and Php2.19 billion for the National Center for Mental Health in 2023 and 2024, respectively. However, it remains unclear whether these resources were used with corresponding transparency, participation and accountability measures.

In the monitoring of learning continuity plans of X-Ed, it was noted that mental health has been a core problem affecting many students. This is expected to have impact on their learning and well-being. The situation is presumed to be harder for marginalized students, such as those from indigenous people, students with additional needs, with disabilities, poorest and LGBTQIA+. The threat of discrimination facing these marginalized students make them more vulnerable to mental health issues.

Meanwhile, based on the ongoing health monitoring of G-Watch called Promoting Rights Organizing for Health or PRO-Health, mental healthcare is one of the most inaccessible health services in the country. Mental health services are either non-existent, or that very few people are aware of these services in both rural and urban areas.

The program features two panels. The first panel consisting of youth leaders, Argel Joseph Aventura of the Youth for Mental Health Coalition and Gellie Rose Davalos of the Student Council Alliance of the Philippiines – Gensan Chapter and PRO-Health will share the perspectives and analysis of the youth.  The second panel will be representatives from the duty-bearers in government. Ms. Norjanah Ali Grar of the Ministry on Health – BARMM (Mental Health Department) and Jean Joson of the Department of Education Division Office of Cagayan De Oro City will discuss the different policies and programs of the government on mental health.

Multiply-Ed (X-Ed) is a national initiative of the Center for Youth Advocacy and Networking (CYAN) and Government Watch (G-Watch), in cooperation with various youth and student organizations and with support from Education Out Loud of the Global Partnership for Education.

PRO-Health or Promoting Rights Organizing for Health is an initiative of G-Watch with Accountability Research Center (ARC) in partnership with other civil society groups and local governments that aims to strengthen transparency, participation and accountability in public health governance to come up with pro-people and bottom-up solutions to systemic barriers and hurdles to reproductive, maternal, newborn and adolescent health services. 

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