In this pandemic, college mental health focal persons will play critical roles in responding to students’ mental health (MH) concerns and coping needs. In the University of the Philippines, college mental health focal persons are UP faculty members and Student Affairs staff who can advocate MH care in classes and other teaching-learning contexts. At least 240 participants have registered in the 2nd semester AY 2020-2021.
The UP Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Office of Student Financial Assistance (OVPAA-OSFA) started the Sandigan, Sandalan: Training and Advocacy programs for Mental Health in March 2021 to provide practical knowledge on Mental Health Promotion. The Training Program on Mental Health Promotion in the Teaching-Learning Environment is now in its 3rd Batch run for the 2nd semester AY 2020-2021.
The training team is led by Asst. Prof. Maria Angela Mabale, MA, RN (College of Nursing, UP Manila), and Mr. Airon Andrew Bonifacio, RND (College of Home Economics, UP Diliman). The program resource persons include Rowalt Alibudbud, MD (College of Liberal Arts, De La Salle University); Victoria Patricia De La Llana, MD (College of Medicine, UP Manila); Raymond John Naguit, MD (Youth for Mental Health Coalition); Eleanor Caballo, RGC (College of Arts and Science, UP Manila); and Blesile Mantaring, MD (Office of Student Affairs, UP Manila).
In the previous batches, the training team emphasized the value of mental health in the University setting. According to Dr. Alibudbud, MH promotion leads to academic excellence because it enhances the capability of people to perform at their best leading to academic excellence.
In class management, the team emphasized that MH promotion in remote learning requires rethinking the design of classes. While faculty members are focused on shifting to online delivery of knowledge and assessment, mental health promotion in teaching and learning should bring us back to what makes teaching and learning productive endeavors for students. Dr. Alibudbud emphasized that the teacher-student interaction in classes is a relationship. He reiterates the importance of building trust and empathy to nurture this relationship. Dr. Dela Llana highlighted that UP teachers are given a unique and special opportunity to be significant in the life journey of our students to help them find a semblance of meaning, relief, and connections in classrooms.
Dealing with psychosocial concerns and problematic behavior is a crucial component of MH promotion in class management. The training team introduced systematic ways of handling students to assist participants in incorporating MH care in these situations. Ms. Carballo shared approaches on how to become an effective bridge for UP students struggling with psychosocial concerns. Dr. Mantaring described the value of a network of personnel who can support UP students in UP Manila. According to Dr. Naguit, the logic behind many of the recommendations provided in the training program is to translate compassion into concrete action steps. Speaking as a teacher and mental health service provider, Dr. Dela Llana highlighted that the last thing we want to do is make students feel that their emotions are wrong or that their feelings do not matter to us.
Acknowledging that UP faculty members themselves also face mental health concerns, Asst. Prof. Mabale highlighted the evolving nature of MH promotion in teaching contexts. During the community forums with participants and resource persons, Mr. Bonifacio emphasized that if we are to become advocates of mental health, we should also be able to apply MH concepts, such as self-care, to our respective situations. The experience will require exploring and learning. According to Asst. Prof. Mabale, advocating MH in remote learning could be viewed as a challenge to rediscover new ways of coping as well as new ways of taking care of ourselves.
The 3rd run of the Training Program on Mental Health Promotion in the Teaching-Learning Environment began on 11 May 2021 to accommodate the college mental health focal persons from all constituent universities of UP. This program is UP’s way to build a community of college mental focal persons with the capacity to advocate mental health care in the University.
Should you have inquiries, you may contact the OVPAA-OSFA at firstname.lastname@example.org.