February 26, 2024

To strengthen its mental health advocacy campaign, La Trinidad, Benguet is creating a technical working group that will craft modules for schools.

The municipal council passed the Psychological first aid and mental wellness ordinance that would adopt a program that caters to the mental health needs of the public.

“Consequently, popularizing mental health also carries with it necessary consequences. In La Trinidad alone, rising number of cases of suicide and attempted suicide are being reported on social media while others are being seen and reported by teachers in school,” the ordinance stated.

“It is in the understanding that while these may be reported as isolated cases and may not fully reflect the mental status of the whole population, one life lost is one life too many—and an action is necessary from our brand of leadership,” it added.

The La Trinidad mental health technical working group will craft the learning materials and modules that can help students and teachers in tackling mental health during homeroom or special topics in class. It shall also take part in the research and development of mental health in the municipality.

The group shall be led by the municipal mayor, co-chaired by thechairperson on the committee on health and the municipal health services officer, with members from the representative of the Philippine Mental Health Association; and others from the academe.

The mental health executive committee shall be crafted to supervise the implementation of the ordinance. It shall serve as the primary recommending body to advise the municipal government on the best and appropriate steps in tackling mental health.

This shall be chaired by the mayor, co-chaired by the Liga ng mga Barangayand SK Federation president, with co-vice chairperson SB member chairperson on the committee on health and the MHSO with members from the MSWDO, municipal legal officer, and representatives from the Philippine Mental Health Association, and Department of Health-Benguet, among other agencies. 

The collection of data shall only be conducted by the MHSO through their designated secretariat and shall not be accessed by non-members of the executive committee.

The municipality shall also provide additional guidance counselors to schools, as the need arises. There shall also be a provision of medicine and continuous research and development on mental health in partnership with the higher educational institutions.

The municipality shall also conduct a youth hours program, annual youth camp, or weekly family day as part of its promotion of mental wellness for the youth. Thus, the municipal gym shall be open for use for youth activities from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm on Mondays, Wednesdays every other week while facilities like the municipal youth center, tourism stage, and others appropriate for practicing, youth gatherings and socializations are approved on a case-to-case basis.

To have sufficient guidance counselors, the ordinance also calls for the town’s funding of the schooling of La Trinidad residents who are eligible to enroll in the masters of psychology program. Qualified residents will become scholars, who will be required to serve the municipality as a guidance counselor for two years.

To implement the ordinance, an annual amount of P5 million shall be appropriated under the general fund.

The Benguet provincial board gave the ordinance a favorable review.  – Ofelia C. Empian