The Philippine Star
When one talks about law school, the same images always come to mind: mountains of textbooks, endless hours in the library, hordes of competitive students, fast-paced class debates and, most of all, domineering professors. It’s an academic Hunger Games — a high-stakes battle for survival in the classroom, where academic excellence is valorized above everything else.
Highly pressurized environments such as this have had an adverse effect on personal well-being, with more and more students all over the country struggling with mental health issues every semester, making it difficult for them to focus on their studies. Unfortunately, many law schools lack the necessary facilities and trained staff to address this issue, and a societal stigma towards those who struggle with mental illness persists.
There is, however, a professor at the University of the Philippines College of Law who is championing mental healthcare, and is fostering empathy, compassion and sensitivity on campus. This professor is Maria Gabriela “Gaby” Roldan-Concepcion.
While she is a professorial lecturer on Persons and Family Relations, a board member of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board and the legal expert on the morning television talk show Unang Hirit, Gaby sees her advocacy as one of her main priorities.
For her, the first step is to inform the students, teachers and staff about just how prevalent mental health issues are in the community, and to teach them how to recognize the signs and symptoms so that they may be “mental health first-aiders.” Just last April, Gaby co-organized the #YouWillBeAlright forum, which aimed to raise awareness on the matter.
The next step for her is to identify the sources of help that someone struggling (be it a student or staff or faculty member) would need and to mobilize resources inside and outside the campus.
“Something like mental illness requires a lot of time to be able to talk about it and to diagnose it. We also have very few trained professionals, psychiatrists, licensed counselors and psychologists,” Gaby says, citing that most schools have only one counselor for every 200 students.
Her work has been very well received by the student body and by the administration. “There’s a gap that needs to be filled, there’s a need that needs to be satisfied and there’s help that needs to be given,” she concludes.