Senator and Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography Christopher “Bong” Go urged government to continue providing all kinds of psychosocial assistance to individuals struggling with mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, and other more serious psychological problems, especially amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“As a senator, I assure you that the government will do its best to ensure that all forms of psychosocial assistance will be made available to those who are suffering from any form of mental health issues,” Go said during the second part of the Edukasyon Tugon sa Depresyon Webinar organized by the Council for the Welfare of Children.
“We will also strive to provide all the mental health and psychosocial support to complete the public health response in this pandemic, especially for our children and the vulnerable population,” he added.
Go also expressed his support for the amendment of Republic Act No. 11036, also known as the Mental Health Act, to provide better compensation benefits and special financial assistance in the event a worker sustains a mental disability by reason of his or her position.
In May, Go presided over a health committee hearing to tackle Senate Bill 1471 authored by Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara that seeks to amend the Mental Health Act. Several other mental health-related measures are pending in the health committee for further deliberations.
In his webinar speech, Go also remarked that mental health problems must not be underestimated, especially amid the pandemic.
“‘Wag po nating balewalain. Alam ninyo po, marami talagang apektado sa nangyari pong ito. Noong unang panahon, ‘pag merong pagtitipon na pinatawag ang ating mayor, barangay captain, kapag konti lang ang pumunta, magagalit siya. Ngayon po, kapag marami ang pumunta, magagalit siya dahil magkukumpol po yung tao,” Go said.
“Dati po ‘pag may hawak kang alcohol, maarte ka. Ngayon po, ‘pag wala kang alcohol, minsan po ay hindi ka kinakamayan. Nakikita ninyo po na talagang baliktad na ‘yung mundo natin. Marahil po ay sinusubukan tayo ng Panginoon, sinusubukan niya ang ating pananampalataya,” he added.
He also advised the public to pray and continue to show their compassion for each other, especially now that the situation is still far from normal.
“Magdasal pa po tayo ng maigi, magtulungan tayo at lalong lalo na po sa mga apektado po sa itong mental health issue, marami po sa mga OFWs natin umuwi, minsan po ay nagkakaroon po ng anxiety, depression dahil hindi sila nakakauwi sa kanilang pamilya, napakahirap po,” he added.
He also expressed his concern for the alarming reports of depression and suicide, even among the youth, which have significantly increased during the pandemic. Go hopes that the involvement of the religious sector and civil society in responding to the issue will create a more holistic solution.
“As we mark the 28th Anniversary of the National Children’s Month, let us engage with one another to look at the growing concerns surrounding our children’s rights and welfare amidst the pandemic,” he said.
Go also expressed his concern for families who are struggling to provide children the necessary means and support to adapt to new learning techniques being implemented in schools to ensure the safety of students.
“Alam ko po sa magulang na naririto rin, apektado rin po kayo dahil sa hirap ng buhay. Hindi lahat ay nabibigyan ng pagkakataon para magkaroon ang bawat anak ninyo ng computer gadgets para sa blended learning,” Go said.
“Alam ko pong hirap ang ating mga kabataan na mag-adjust sa makabagong pamamaraan ng pag-aaral. Karamihan pa nga ay walang access sa internet o talagang walang pambili ng mga tablets o computer,” he added.
To assist poor families who need to support their children in their studies amid the adverse effects of the pandemic, Go has extended aid by providing electronic tablets to those who need them most in various assistance distribution activities nationwide. Specifically, the CWC, in partnership with Go’s Senate office, was able to distribute around 500 tablets since October to beneficiaries in Caloocan City and select institutions in Quezon City.
“Handa po akong magserbisyo at tulungan po kayo sa abot ng aking makakaya. Pero magtulungan rin po tayo dahil hindi ito kakayanin lang ng ating gobyerno. Kailangan namin ang bayanihan at pagmamalasakit ninyo sa kapwa upang malampasan natin ang mga pagsubok na ito,” he urged.
He, then, assured students that he and President Rodrigo Duterte will always prioritize their welfare amid the ongoing pandemic. He also reminded them to study hard and treasure the education that their parents have provided them without neglecting their health.
“Sa mga bata, gawin ninyo ang lahat upang mapasaya ang inyong mga magulang, sikapin ninyong magtapos dahil mahalaga ang edukasyon upang maiangat ninyo ang inyong mga buhay,” he reminded students.
“Magsikap po kayong mag-aral kahit nasa krisis tayo dahil ang edukasyon ang tanging puhunan ninyo sa mundong ito. […] Pero, at the same time, huwag ninyo pabayaan ang kalusugan dahil importante ang buhay ng bawat Pilipino,” he added.
Ending his speech, Go expressed his gratitude to the Council for the Welfare of Children, in collaboration with World Vision Foundation and Mata ng Caloocan Foundation, for organizing the webinar.
“We, in the government, are very happy to have you as partners in looking after the well-being of our children. Maraming salamat po na nariyan kayo at lagi naming maaasahan,” he said.
Go also assured the public that despite the looming uncertainties ahead, the government will not stop in giving the services they deserve. “As I always say: your government will never leave you behind,” he guaranteed.
“Ang tanging hiling ko lang ay patuloy tayong magtulungan at magbayanihan upang mapabuti natin ang kalusugan ng bawat Pilipino,” he ended.
On the part of CWC, Executive Director Mary Mitzi Cajayon-Uy assured that they remain focused on protecting the mental health of children, especially amid the ongoing crisis.
“Hindi lamang natatapos ang ating pagtulong sa pagbibigay ng mga tablet, mas mahalaga na turuan natin ang mga bata ng kanilang mga kailangang life skills upang maging handa sila na malagpasan ang hamon ng COVID-19 pandemic at harapin ng buo ang New Normal,” Uy said.