MANILA - Student leaders and school administration should engage in a dialogue to resolve issues surrounding the proposed “academic break,” an educational psychiatrist said Monday.
According to Dr. Bernadette Manalo, a pause in studies should be discussed by the school and the student council to shed light on issues.
“The students should understand na kapag merong break for a week, then everything will be disrupted,” Manalo said.
“Dadami ang load nila. Kailangan nila sigurong maintindihan na if they want a break, they have to be responsible also.”
Student groups in Baguio earlier urged the local government to intervene and declare an academic break to relieve students from both academic and personal stress, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Saint Louis University Baguio student council chairperson Mystica Rose Angelica Bucad told ABS-CBN News that besides overwhelming school work, some students are burdened with family problems.
According to her, students carry the burden of their family affairs while studying due to distance learning.
“Before kami nagkaroon ng distance learning, kapag umalis na kami sa bahay, naiiwan sa bahay [yung family problems]. So pagdating ng school, kahit papaano nare-relieve sila. Nakakapag-interact kami, may nakakausap kami,” she said.
“Ngayon po kasi parang ... you are surrounded by all the factors na pwedeng makaapekto sa mental health.”
While Manalo believes school administrations and students must talk, she said an academic break is also a form of “mental break”, or “mental health care.”
“'Yung pag-adjust sa distance learning and wala ka masyadong social connections with your friends, that can be overwhelming and there are studies that show na talagang 'yung mga estudyante can suffer from more anxiety and depression,” she said.
Manalo said that despite current social limitations, depression is “treatable”, and those with suicidal thoughts and tendencies must seek help immediately.
“May gamot, may pag-asa. 'Wag na 'wag na isipin na nag-iisa kayo, 'cause there are a lot of people ... who also have suffered from depression who survived and emerged victorious,” she said.
Bucad said the reason why this matter has even been brought up to the local government is because they have not received any response to their emails, which they sent on Oct. 13 and Oct. 26, that includes attachments that support “rumored cases” of self- harm and depression among students.
While they were able to speak to some of the university’s officials in one meeting, the student leaders felt the administration had no sense of urgency to deal with circulating rumors that some students had already resorted to self-harm.
Bucad said that the student council will meet again with university officials on Tuesday.
Saint Louis University earlier released an official statement on their Facebook page, saying they have “remained steadfast to support not only the academic needs but more importantly their (students) non- academic needs, such as mental health, welfare, and safety.”
But according to the school, the peaceful request of the student body for an academic break was quickly escalated by unverified information pertaining to alleged cases of self-harm.
"This has caused an unnecessary uproar in the otherwise peaceful request. We are not discounting the reality of such unfortunate circumstances and we deeply value the sanctity of each and every life. As such, caution is imperative in making and sharing unverified information pertaining to cases of this sensitive nature,” it said.
The National Union of Students of the Philippines blasted the university statement.
“Calling the efforts of the student body to reach out to the administration for an academic break as ‘unnecessary uproar’ shows the lack of accountability and urgency on the part of the institution regarding their students' mental health," it said.