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Children are getting ready for another round of virtual classes as the Department of Education (DepEd) announced Sept. 13 as the opening date for School Year 2021–2022. 

The mental health of children has been discussed by experts, who are worried about the long-term effects of lockdowns. 

In this B-Side episode, Jean L. Goulbourn, founder of the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation (NGF Mindstrong), talks to BusinessWorld reporter Patricia B. Mirasol about resilience among kids and Ang Katatagan, the foundation’s program with DepEd aimed at giving teachers the tools to help their students cope with the stress of remote learning. 

“The pandemic has changed the whole world of a child. They’re isolated. It’s not healthy,” said Ms. Goulbourn, who established NGF Mindstrong in 2007 to help individuals battle depression. 

A child’s resilience is like a muscle   it can be strengthened.  

“Resilience is about bouncing back from unexpected situations that shock, surprise, or traumatize you,” said Ms. Goulbourn. “It’s a mental decision, a survivor instinct, and an intuition from the soul. All three come into play in deciding how you react to a trauma, problem, or crisis.”  

The NGF founder added that children are very clever and are made to survive. “The decision to save themselves is instinctive,” she said, “Resilience in children can be built.” 

Instead of distracting a child from hurt, disappointment, and grief, parents should allow them to experience these emotions and express themselves. 

A sense of spirituality bolsters resilience. 

Ang Katatagan, NGF’s program with DepEd, trains teachers to develop resilience among Filipino school children through class activities and related projects.   

Teachers under this program are trained to self-reflect, communicate, and observe their actions and reactions. They are also trained to discipline children and foster in their students a sense of spirituality.  

“A child who grows up with a sense of spirituality can handle situations better than one who… believes in no one and nothing,” Ms. Goulbourn.   

Through a grant from the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Ang Katatagan’s pilot batch in Cebu of 200 DepEd teachers will be deployed in schools in the said metropolis.  

The private sector should invest in mental health. 

Ang Katatagan, which took 5 ½ years to be approved, does not yet have a fixed funding mechanism. Companies and businesses need to invest more in mental health initiatives, said Ms. Goulbourn.   

“It only takes P3,850 for one school teacher to understand where she is, who she is, and how she can strengthen her weak points so she’s strong enough for the children,” she said. “That’s for twenty-five hours of training, plus three hours for a battery of psychological tests.”   

Section 3F of the Mental Health Act (Republic Act No. 11036) calls for the integration of strategies to promote mental health in educational institutions, the workplace, and in communities.  

Parents need to create an emotionally safe environment for their children.  

“Invest time, space, and focused attention within the family,” said Ms. Goulbourn.  

Her foundation’s crisis lines get calls from children of affluent families who have all the trappings of wealth but feel empty on the inside.  

Depression is a risk factor for suicide according the Department of Health and the World Health Organization. 

“I don’t want to see any family ever go through what I went through as a mother, to lose a daughter due to self-harm,” said Ms. Goulbourn. “This Ang Katatagan program is very important to our foundation and to our country.”  

This B-Side episode was recorded remotely on Aug. 17. Produced by Paolo L. Lopez and Sam L. Marcelo.

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NGF Mindstrong’s crisis hotline numbers are 8804-4673; 0918-8734673; and 0917-5584673. Individuals can donate to the foundation through BPI Makati Atrium (peso savings: 3123-7249-59) and BDO SM Makati (peso savings: 000040491889).