“Feeling Good: Mental Health and Psychosocial Support for ALS Learners during COVID-19 Pandemic”

The COVID-19 global pandemic has affected the lives of the world’s population and has emerged as a global health emergency with unprecedented paralyzing situation on all fronts. It has necessitated closure of schools, physical distancing and loss of familiar environments. It brought restriction on movement, disruption of routines, curtailment of social interactions and deprivation of traditional learning methods which led to increased pressure, stress and anxiety for all, for the young people, their families and communities.

Under the project “Better Life for Out-of-Schools Girls to Fight Against Poverty and Injustice in the Philippines” supported by Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), UNESCO Office, Jakarta organized an online session on 4 and 5 June 2020 dubbed as “Feeling Good: Mental Health and Psychosocial Support for ALS Learners During COVID-19 Pandemic”. The session is also part of UNESCO Office, Jakarta’s responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and support to the Learning Continuity Plan of the Philippines’ Department of Education.  

Originally, the online session was targeting the ALS learners in Tacloban City and Palo, Leyte in Region 8 in the Philippines. However, since it was deemed beneficial to the ALS learners throughout the country, the online session was then live streamed through Facebook. The 1st session reached around 16,636 people, 485 engagements, 771 comments and 181 shares while the 2nd session reached 11,641 people, 321 engagements, 651 comments and 127 shares, respectively.

The mental health and psychosocial support online session was aimed at encouraging ALS learners to cope better and remain productive in their daily routine during the COVID-19 emergency crisis. A psychology professor and a mental health and psychosocial support practitioner of the University of the Philippines-Tacloban College, Dr Ervina Espina, acted as the facilitator of the online session. Key topics were delivered as activity-based inputs such as normalizing situations (fears, concerns, and issues); maintaining well-being (circle of control, finding solutions, and short breathing exercise); and managing stress (noticing our feelings, identifying hooking and unhooking thoughts, setting up own routines, and short breathing exercises).

In his opening remarks, Director and Representative of UNESCO Office, Jakarta, Dr Shahbaz Khan, emphasized the importance of mental health and psychosocial support especially to the young people, their families, and communities. Many challenges brought upon by the COVID-19 pandemic have disrupted normal routines and might have increased pressure, stress, and anxieties amongst the learners therefore the learning systems and methods shall be adapted and that the learning process should continue. To face the COVID-19 crisis globally, UNESCO has brought together ministers of education around the world and echoed a call to ensure the continuity of education for all learners. Dr Khan also expressed his appreciation to the Department of Education in the Philippines as one of the leading innovators in education response during this pandemic, and KOICA for the support and partnership provided in the Philippines.

The Assistant Regional Director of the Department of Education Regional Office VIII, Dr Arnulfo Balane, stated that disasters, hazards, including pandemics, keep learners out of school and their mental health maybe imperiled and threatened by the health emergency crisis. This learning session on mental health and psychosocial support to ALS learners is a wonderful learning experience to lead them to the right direction. Dr Balane further mentioned that DepEd Region VIII has designed an emergency road map in response to COVID-19 emergency situation and said that the well-being of the learners is the primordial consideration of DepEd in its journey towards the provision of quality, basic and liberating education to all types of learners. He concluded his remarks by extending appreciation to all partners of the project.

A brief closing programme was held towards the last part of session 2 with a short remarks provided by the Head of the Education Unit of UNESCO Jakarta, Dr Mee Young Choi. She expressed her sincere appreciation to all partners involved in the organization of the online session on mental health and psychosocial support to ALS learners such as the DepEd Central Office and DepEd Regional Office VIII as well as KOICA. She personally conveyed appreciation to all ALS learners for whom the session was particularly intended and told them to keep the spirit alive and be positive, especially during this period of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The online session can be accessed at: (Session 1) (Session 2)