Rolyn Catanus-Gantalao is a grade school teacher at the Zamboanguita Central Elementary School in Negros Oriental. Just like other teachers, she is used to routine schedules but the pandemic caused a sudden shift in plans and affected her in terms of exams, computation of grades, even graduation. “All of a sudden, everything got cancelled. We were not prepared. It was heartbreaking for us and for kids not to experience things they looked forward to as part of their memories. We felt useless,” she said.
She also worried about what would happen to them or worse, if they might lose their jobs because there are no classes. “Many felt fear and uncertainty. Fortunately, we were given the opportunity to work, even in a different situation. Suddenly, we felt hope.”
However, there are still other challenges. Rolyn said most teachers are not tech savvy, there are places without internet service, and they get affected by fake news and other negativities like the call to lessen salaries of teachers since parents will be doing most of the teaching under the new setup.
Teachers are also wives, fathers, sisters, daughters, husbands, brothers and sons, with responsibilities for their families, friends and fellow men. “Like everyone else, we also need help. That’s why we are very grateful for this webinar where issues and concerns regarding our mental health can be addressed. Sometimes teachers are not expected to share their struggles because they are seen and expected as strong so the students, even the community, are really dependent on them.”
Ronalyn is among the speakers during the “#StartANewDay – Let’s Talk About Mental Health: A Forum for Educators,” the second in a series of mental health webinars organized by Globe through its Hope Bank online support community to tackle mental health issues plaguing various sectors of society and to find ways to help them.
The webinar also featured mental health expert Dr. Carolina Uno-Rayco, National Executive Director of the Philippine Mental Health Association (PMHA) and Dr. Salustiano Jimenez, Director 3 and officer in charge of the Office of the Regional Director of DepEd Region 7.
Acknowledging Rolyn’s concerns, Dr. Rayco said the teachers should be provided with an environment that promotes and sustains good mental health, or avenues where they can talk about their feelings and emotions. In the middle of formal meetings, she said, there can be simple “how are you’s” or “kumustahan,” to make it a safe space with no judgment about feelings to lessen the stigma.
Moreover, she said that work-from-home setup can be very stressful for educators because there are no more boundaries between work and home time. Thus, she stressed the need to set aside specific time and physical and psychological place for work at home so the teacher will not be disturbed.
Dr. Rayco added that teachers should also find coping mechanisms that work for them like singing to relieve stress, dancing, exercise, or even breathing sessions as well as think of positive emotions, remain appreciative of whatever they have, be optimistic, and employ humor and laughter to decrease stress levels in the body.
“No need to push ourselves because it’s a different situation now. We can’t expect to be that productive, pre-pandemic, so no need to be excessively obsessed with work output and productivity. We need to be good to ourselves and learn to prioritize things. Relationships can also help, not just the romantic type, knowing that someone loves us like our parents, friends, and lastly, spirituality to help make our lives purposeful,” she said.
For his part, Dr. Jimenez agreed that if teachers don’t have a strong support mechanism, there will be a breakdown so he is thankful for the forum which was attended by educators nationwide. “I am very happy because Globe is a formidable partner in mental health with their track record of supporting mental health organizations in the country. I hope there will be more like this to come so we’d know how we can help our teaching and non-teaching personnel here in Region 7 cope with this pandemic and other challenges.”
As a strong mental health advocate, Globe has embarked on various mental health initiatives including the creation of Hope Bank (https://www.facebook.com/groups/267986420517932/), an online support community for those who need upliftment and encouragement. Hope Bank seeks to empower those undergoing emotional and mental challenges caused by Covid-19 and to boost the morale of frontliners and patients, including educators, their families and friends.
To contribute, members can just post messages using hashtag #SpreadHOPE both on their personal profiles and in the group. These can be through photos, artworks, quotes, song lyrics, poems, videos or anything that expresses hope and positivity.
Globe also partnered with organizations such as the UP Diliman Psychosocial Services (UPD PsycServ) and New Good Feelings (NGF) Mindstrong’s HOPELINE for free counseling or psychotherapy services for frontliners, Covid-19 patients and relatives and people under monitoring or under investigation. Just send a text or Viber message to 09063743466 or 09167573157 with name and concern or accomplish the form found at http://bit.ly/PsycServPH to receive a call from a PsycServ volunteer. PsycServ is open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm.
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