Unilab Foundation convenes PGCA, PAP to ‘RACE Against Suicide’
The Unilab Foundation (ULF) convened members of psychologists and guidance counselor communities on a two-day training that further capacitates them to be ‘gatekeepers’ in preventing suicide in schools.
With the aim of addressing the scarcity of mental health professionals specifically in schools, the RACE Against Suicide Training of Trainers (TOT) convened 82 Guidance Counselors and Psychologists, composed of representatives from the regional chapters of Philippine Guidance and Counseling Association (PGCA), and members of the Psychological Association of the Philippines (PAP).
Co-developed by the Unilab Foundation and mental health experts in the Philippines, the training utilizes a contextualized toolkit that will guide this pool of trainers’ knowledge and facilitation skills moving forward.
The RACE Against Suicide toolkit is an evidence-based mental health intervention that aims to provide a more holistic approach to suicide prevention and mental health wellness in schools and to enable them to efficiently recognize and refer learners that are found to be at the risk of suicide, covering risk assessment to referral. The toolkit was peer reviewed by the Bayanihan for Wellbeing (BWB) collaborative convened by Unilab Foundation and led by the various heads of mental health professional associations, namely the Philippine Association of Psychologists, Philippine Psychiatrists Association, Philippine Guidance and Counseling Association, Philippine Society for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Philippine Pediatric Society. The BWB aims to provide a platform for engagement and resource-sharing that brings together youth organizations, parents’ and teachers’ groups, counselors’, doctors and professional associations, NGOs, and government agencies.
Facilitating the training are Dr. Sheila Marie Hocson and Dr. Kenneth Ross Javate, both of whom are co-leading the BWB collaborative.
Dr. Hocson, a registered Guidance Counselor and Psychologist, is the current Director of the Guidance and Counseling at the Far Eastern University, and incumbent President of the PGCA. Meanwhile, Dr. Javate is a medical doctor practicing Child, Adolescent, & Adult Psychiatry, and a Fellow of the Philippine Psychiatric Association and the Philippine Society for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (PSCAP).
At the end of the training, the cluster of participants were able to come up with action plans on integrating the RACE Toolkit in their own schools and practice, with some aiming to further contextualize the Toolkit to be community-based. This pool of trainers are also empowered to cascade their knowledge based on the material to more Gatekeepers next year.
Bringing bayanihan to the fore, the event highlights the importance of cooperation between mental health professions in addressing mental health risks in schools and communities, especially when the nation needs it the most.
“This training of trainers is exponential. It starts with a small number. But if we can reach ten, we can multiply that into a thousand, and more. Ito sana ang ma-envision natin - mental health for all, starting with the RACE Against Suicide,” said Dr. Nino Jose, President of the PAP.
“We need to come together for a braver action – wala pong competition. We invite collaboration, recalibration, and preparation for stability to make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority through this program - isang makabuluhang proyekto para sa pagmamahal sa buhay,” remarked Dr. Sheila Marie Hocson, PGCA President.
Suicide is a global health problem responsible for around 800,000 deaths a year, which is equivalent to one person dying every 40 seconds (World Health Organization, 2014). With the continued effects of the pandemic, a report by the Philippine Statistics Authority (2020) placed suicide as the 25th leading cause of death in the Philippines, a 57% increase compared to the preceding year.
Furthermore, there is a scarcity in mental health professionals in the country, providing limited access to most Filipinos.
The first-ever face to face training held for RACE Against Suicide was held from November 21-22, 2022 at the Diamond Hotel in Malate, Manila.
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