by Justin John Dulogin
THE Asian International School of Aeronautics and Technology conducted a series of webinars on mental health issues specifically about depression, anxiety, and suicide awareness and prevention. Everyone was invited to the “Powwow Week” which was a meeting for discussion among friends or colleagues. All classes, synchronous lectures, and class works were postponed for a one-week chill break that started last October 26 to October 30, 2020. Students were encouraged and not mandated to join the activities that include meeting with instructors to discuss issues, joining seminars regarding mental health, and reaching out to the guidance office. The powwow of students and teachers happened on October 27, 2020, at 3 pm.
This powwow week focused on the subject to raise awareness for everyone’s struggle. Everyone has been respite by the uniquely stressful impact of the pandemic. School counselors and educators prepared webinars to explore and confront the hidden challenges that everyone faced and offered guidance and strategies for healthy responses both for students and teachers. It was thru the initiative of the school President Atty. Myra Ann Wee Toe-Hio. She noticed and observed that students and teachers as well badly need a break from schoolwork and should pay attention to their own mental health. They aimed to connect with the students and assured them of help anytime.
One of the spearheads was the guidance counselor, Ms. Maria Cecilia Santander, who shared when she was asked about the schedule of students even though the school has a lot to catch up with. She said: “The school president and the teachers set a schedule of student-teacher facilitation with the idea of just ‘talk(ing)’. It was basically an activity to just have a chat and talk about life. There were questions brainstormed amongst the teachers to ensure that essential issues will be discussed. But, at the end of the group facilitation, teachers reported that their sessions were more focused on being comfortable at discussing sensitive mental health issues and just life in general. Despite the many “catching up” that the students have to do with their online class task(s), I believe that it helped them forget about them (tasks) for a while and just be comfortable.” She also added, “It was what I call the modern/new normal form of socialization.” Moreover, the teachers who handled most of the class were familiar with the students so rapport was never a problem.
“Breaking the Silence” was one of the webinars that aimed to give suicide awareness. According to Ms. Santander, “The webinars all turned out successful and well attended by the students and the teachers. Based on my evaluation, it helped me as the guidance facilitator, in identifying students in need.” Ms. Santander added, “Additional outcome of the webinars worked really well. Students are more open to discussing sensitive issues, like, depression and suicide.” She also said when asked about her personal insight that overall, the POWWOW was a success. As the name of the activity is defined informally, the aim of the school was to make students feel comfortable talking about just anything. The school wants students to perceive that albeit with the new school format, the faculty and staff are always within easy reach.