Check out below MindGym LET reviewee Richard Macapulay’s full speech for the 30th Oath taking Ceremony for Professional Teachers in Manila.
Good afternoon fellow passers, parents, PRC officials and staff, Board of Professional Teachers, faculty, and guests. Today officially marks our day as professional teachers—a toast for excellence and a milestone in our lives. Allow me to talk about two things at this moment.
According to a 2014 report of the World Health Organization, there are 804,000 people who kill themselves annually worldwide; over a third of the yearly rate came from Southeast Asia. The data are still mired by under-reporting due to sensitivity and illegality of suicide in some countries.
Despite the fact that the Philippines has a low national suicide rate as compared to Southeast Asian neighbors, a study by Pedaniel et al. published in 2011, stated that there is an increase in incidence and relatively high rates in adolescents and young adults. Suicide is a complicated issue, much more the broader one, mental health. That’s why let’s try to simplify this matter. Different articles and studies point out chronic depression and anxiety attacks as culprit to attempted and completed suicide.
Cambridge Dictionary of Psychology defines depression as a state of mind characterized by negative mood, low energy, loss of interest in usual activities, pessimism, unrealistically negative thoughts about self and the future, and social withdrawal. A short state of depression after a personal loss of various sort is normal but when it persists for a longer period of time or it significantly affects our daily functioning, this may be a disorder. On the other hand, anxiety disorders are characterized by repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror (or panic) that reach within minutes. Both are sudden and recurring. I wouldn’t use my time explaining those two in details but I want to take this opportunity to remind everyone, particularly to every teacher, that we can play a role in the mental health of kids and teens. If you care to do more research about anxiety disorders and chronic depression, Google is one click away No dictionary has been published stating chronic depression and anxiety disorders to be synonymous to kolokyal terms ‘emo’, ‘krung-krung’, ‘lokaret’, ‘muret’, ‘may toyo’, ‘may sayad’. I repeat, they are not.
There are a lot of reliable references about those two topics to widen our understanding. However, grasping the meaning and relevant knowledge on chronic depression and anxiety disorders is not just our task. We should not stop there. We should embrace the part in handling them especially those who were battling on them. Everyone is fighting a battle but the worst is sometimes anyone can pull the trigger for someone to commit suicide.
A conclusion drawn by the study of Mr. Jose Maria Tristan Yuvienco, involving Kumusta, an advocacy campaign about depression; is that everyone is vulnerable to depression. He stated further that depression is a common experience to people but varies in duration, causes and types. I believe that every person has its lowest point in his/her life. I had two suicidal thoughts in the past. One was when I was asked to submit my resignation in my job while the second was being incompetent in my graduate studies. I am admitting this one in public not to make my story more dramatic but to break the stigma on mental health. So what made me stand in front of you now? The reasons were to many to enumerate but I’d like to say that the love of my parents and siblings as well as the empathy of my teachers and classmates were the prime reasons. Failing is painful as well as not meeting standards but the ability to cope with from these must be taught to our students.
School has been the training ground of kids for academic development. But, we, as professional teachers, should not only focus on the academic standing of the kids and teens. We should also see their emotional well-being.
We need to see that development should not only be on the grounds of academic achievement but also to emotional fulfilment – a satisfied soul and a sound mental health. Let’s teach kids that one’s fulfillment is much more important than achievement. Let’s teach the kids that success is not solely about being in the honor list or winning competitions; success is maximizing one’s potentials and overcoming one’s limitations. Since losing one’s self-esteem is attached to depression, let’s teach kids that being competent supersedes being competitive.
The school is, was and will be our second home. We’ve stayed in school for so long as grade school pupils until we’ve decided the path of being in the academe as teachers. As a second home, we should create an atmosphere of positivity in our respective classrooms instead of making it as a pressure cooker. Despite the heavy academic load and saddening news events, we, as teachers and role models, should be ambassadors and ambassadresses of optimism. Kids have different backgrounds; some are in extremes conditions. Some might be coming from broken homes and/or indigent families. Some might be having domestic violence and abuses as breakfast, lunch, and supper. Unfortunately, some might be serving as snacks for the sexual appetite of carnal people. Despite these saddening struggles that cost the mental health of kids and teens, we should transcend to them the optimism that we have. We might never understand the exact situations of our future students but we have the role of helping them. We should highly value the role of helping these kids in seeing the light in the darkness—that there are opportunities in improving one’s condition. Let’s teach our students that no amount of life dramas should exempt them in pursuing their dreams; no amount of pain should hinder kids in reaching their goals; and no amount of challenges should limit them in striving for excellence. We can do that initially by being enthusiastic in teaching them; smiling in the midst of problems; inspiring them through our very own life stories; providing a listening and compassionate heart; and helping them realize that failures are spices of life wherein one really needs in order to grow.
Mr. Yuvienco’s study further strengthened the importance of having someone to talk with. Thus, let’s reach out to kids and teach them to properly express their sadness and disappointments. Depressed people, especially kids and teens, need a listening heart. Thus, let’s teach them to be good listeners, too. Most of the time, they are afraid to admit that they are experiencing sadness for unusual long period of time because of the wrong notion about depression. Sometimes, they bully their fellow instead of facing their own insecurities and life problems. Let’s teach them to be more open to their loved ones and advise their guardians to be more sensitive to their emotional needs. Let’s help them express their frustrations to other productive and aesthetic means like music, arts, history, crafts, literature, sports, etc. Let’s stop venting out to our students the burden of our workload and/or family problems we do have.
Let’s teach them that it is okay to seek professional help when all are extremely out of one’s control. Seeking psychiatric help should never judge a person to be ‘krung-krung’ or ‘baliw.’
The second thing I need to emphasize at this moment is our role in the 21st century of knowledge explosion and quicksand of misinformation.
Nowadays, everything in the social media is perceived as fact and shared by people without verifying its authenticity. We should be the vanguards of the truth. We should have a deep sense of sensitivity to our history as one nation and one state. We should never forget the unsung stories of our heroes. Let’s always be critical on information presented on the web. Let’s sieve facts from opinion. By being so, we also help the kids to be critical thinkers. The source of knowledge is not the problem but its use and credibility are. Let’s encourage them to use published books of reliable authors. We should not proselyte the kids to our political beliefs. Let’s present the facts as they are but guide the kids to generate sound conclusion on our nation’s story. Let’s fight historical revisionism.
To these, I salute the sacrifices we, our parents and loved ones have made to be here as professional teachers. Congratulations and God bless our next journey. Let’s be the empathic and truth-seeking teachers the Philippines needs.
Richard C. Macapulay, R.Ch., LPT
Tarlac State University