#SelfCare: On looking after the mental health of students and professors

Winsher Manzala/TomasinoWeb

The Department of Health (DOH) reported on August 10 that a 2020 study with 1,879 respondents has shown that a quarter of Filipinos are suffering from mental health issues.

The study entitled, “,reports the poor health status of Filipinos and reasons such as the imposed quarantine leading to prolonged home-stay. Concerns for family members were linked “with the psychological impact of the pandemic and higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression” among young students.

The cost of COVID-19 on students and professors

“Kapag palagi mo kasi chine-check ‘yong news […] every hour mo tinitingnan na pataas nang pataas ‘yong cases parang mas lalo kang matatakot,” Thomas Dominic Zambrano, a College of Tourism and Hospitality Management junior shared with .

Zambrano said the pandemic cost him his college life in the university. Their supposed tour immersions to airports and cruise ships in countries like France and South Korea, which they fervently looked forward to, would not happen anymore.

Due to the pandemic, the culinary entrepreneurship major also felt robbed of the “bonding” experience he and his blockmates would have had with their professors in a classroom setting, the 7/11 “” moments where the majority of students go to after their class to converse with friends, and the most-awaited Paskuhan.

Nill Carlos Rivera, a junior from the College of Information and Computing Sciences, agrees with the recent news of DOH as he knows that his friends are also experiencing trouble coping with the new normal.

“They are used to having everyday social [and] physical interaction and they cannot function well […] when they are isolated inside their houses,” Rivera shared with .

Rivera also found it hard to adjust to online learning, considering that there were factors that hindered him from learning such as poor internet connection, power interruptions, and the tools he needed to access his course site and accomplish his daily tasks.

Kristina Marie Nalus from the University’s Senior High School faculty said that it is normal to have anxiety issues because of the uncertainties brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

She emphasized that it is difficult to not be able to see her loved ones on a regular basis and travel as a way to de-stress. However, in terms of working at home, Nalus believed that she lost the potential to fully connect with all of her students.

“It was [a] pure joy sharing what I know, and the response of the students [has] always been rewarding. But now, it’s hard to know if they really are listening or if they are fully engaged during online classes,” she told .

Establishing healthy boundaries

Juan Rafael Opsima, a psychologist in the Department of Health-Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Center in Dagupan, said that the news over many Filipinos suffering from mental health issues is “alarming” because the end of the COVID-19 pandemic is uncertain, especially now with cases rising due to the Delta variant.

“I think matapos man itong [COVID-19] pandemic, there [will still be] a wave of mental health issues because of the current state natin,” Opsima said.

For Opsima, boundaries such as the sudden change from the traditional face-to-face classes to an online setting and the uneasy feeling brought about by the pandemic contributed to the anxiety and stress of students and professors.

“Although there is research suggesting that online [classes] are effective, I think that’s not the point kasi somehow we’re looking for what we call […] social communication with other people,” he stated.

When asked about ways students and professors could take care of their mental health amidst the pandemic, Opsima stated the importance of constant social communication, such as talking to friends on Zoom and to family members.

Opsima also emphasized that it’s crucial to establish “healthy boundaries” at home. Breaks, such as day-offs, should be instilled, and refraining from using gadgets for work should be avoided, as overworking could easily lead to burnout.

He also shared the importance of remembering that situations are not always controllable and emotions are valid, but should not be dwelled on too much.

“If they think something is [unusual] including sa emotions and [coping mechanism], they might try to consult with mental health professionals including mga [guidance counselor], psychologist, and psychiatrist,” Opsima advised.

“The pandemic affected us [so] much but we can find ways to cope [by] managing our emotions, seeking social [and] family support, and consulting with mental health professionals.”

The Official Digital Media Organization of the University of Santo Tomas