Multiply-Ed and PRO-Health join forces to convene the Mindanao Youth Assembly for Mental Health

More than 100 hundred student-leaders and mental health advocates were convened last June 4 in Davao City to take on the worsening situation of mental health crisis in the country. Attended by young leaders from Lanao del Sur and Upi, Maguindanao, Cotabato City, General Santos City, Cagayan de Oro, and Davao City, as well as concerned duty-bearers in the government, the said event dubbed  as “Youth Assembly for Mental Health,” was   organized by Multiply-Ed (X-Ed), in collaboration with PRO-Health with the aim to craft the youth and student agenda on mental health and launch a youth-led national coalition that will spearhead nationwide campaigns to mobilize the youth and concerned duty-bearers around mental health issues.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of 2015, 10% to 15% of Filipino students between the ages of 5 and 15 have mental health issues. The same United Nations agency further reported that 16.8% of Filipino students between the ages of 13 and 17 attempted suicide at least once in the year before the conduct of the 2015 Global School-based Student Health survey.

The 2021 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study (YAFS5) also revealed that 17% of young people aged 15 to 24 had suicidal thoughts, 1/3 of whom experience suicide ideation more than once. The report further indicated that 7.5% of Filipino youth or almost 1.5 million youth, ever tried ending their lives. Unfortunately, according to YAFS5, only 11% of Filipino youth know of any suicide prevention program or service, while 62% did not reach to anyone about their suicide ideations, and only 2% who experienced suicide attempt reached out to a professional.

On the other hand, the government allocated Php12 million for mental health awareness and hotline under the 2023 national budget. It also has set aside Php2.15 billion and Php2.19 billion for the National Center for Mental Health in 2023 and 2024, respectively. However, it remains unclear whether these resources were used with corresponding transparency, participation and accountability measures.

The program featured two panels. The first panel consisted of youth leaders. Argel Joseph Aventura of the Youth for Mental Health Coalition, Gellie Rose Davalos of the Student Council Alliance of the Philippiines – Gensan Chapter and PRO-Health and Isnihayah Binumbaran of Multiply-Ed and G-Watch-Lanao shared the perspectives and analysis of the youth, including the emerging findings of Multiply-Ed and PRO-Health.

In the X-Ed monitoring of the learning continuity plans of 53 schools all over the country from 2022 to 2023, it was noted that mental health has been a core problem affecting many students, negatively affecting their learning and well-being. The situation was noted to be harder for marginalized students, such as those from indigenous people, students with additional needs, with disabilities, poorest and LGBTQIA+. The threat of discrimination facing these marginalized students have made them more vulnerable to mental health issues.

Meanwhile, based on the ongoing health monitoring of G-Watch called Promoting Rights Organizing for Health or PRO-Health, mental healthcare is one of the most inaccessible health services in the country. Mental health services are either non-existent, or that very few people are aware of these services in both rural and urban areas.

The second panel were representatives from the duty-bearers in government. Ms. Norjanah Ali Grar of the Ministry on Health - BARMM (Mental Health Department) and Jean Joson of the Department of Education Division Office of Cagayan De Oro City discussed the different policies and programs of the government on mental health. As pointed out by Ms. Grar and Ms. Joson, while the government is undertaking efforts to address mental health, there remains a huge gap.

In the agenda-setting workshop during the said assembly, the over 100 youth and students representatives from all over Mindanao discussed what needs to done to address the mental health crisis in the country. Below are the key agenda on mental health that surfaced:


  • Strengthen the awareness-raising on government’s mental health programs and services, such as conduct of symposium or forum in schools and communities and dissemination of information on existing teen and adolescent-friendly centers and directory of mental health professionals. 
  • Mental health programs and awareness-raising must cater to the indigenous peoples. 
  • There should be youth-led and youth-friendly spaces all over the country for young people to air out their concerns and be supported.
  • There should be more trainings on psychological support.
  • Strengthen the capacity of barangay/ community health workers in handling mental health cases through trainings and referral system and provide support to community focal persons for mental health. 
  • Enable and support monitoring and assessment activities and the use of evidence for the improvement of mental health programs. 


The new Youth Assembly for Mental Health vowed to push for the said reform agenda on mental health, while pursuing related actions and activities as a youth-led movement.

Multiply-Ed (X-Ed) is a national initiative of the Center for Youth Advocacy and Networking (CYAN) and Government Watch (G-Watch), in cooperation with various youth and student organizations and with support from Education Out Loud of the Global Partnership for Education.

PRO-Health or Promoting Rights Organizing for Health is an initiative of G-Watch with Accountability Research Center (ARC) in partnership with other civil society groups and local governments that aims to strengthen transparency, participation and accountability in public health governance to come up with pro-people and bottom-up solutions to systemic barriers and hurdles to reproductive, maternal, newborn and adolescent health services.