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Psychologist in a Pocket sheds light on mental health issue

A mobile application that can gauge the user’s possibility of having depression is now in the works.

The Psychologist in a Pocket (PiaP), intended for Filipino college students, measures depression symptoms through text-analysis technology that reads anything the user inputs in their phone.

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A mobile application that can gauge the user’s possibility of having depression is now in the works.

The Psychologist in a Pocket (PiaP), intended for Filipino college students, measures depression symptoms through text-analysis technology that reads anything the user inputs in their phone.

“With all the students na possibly nakaka-experience ng depression, baka pwede gamitin [ang  PiaP], especially [ng] college students,” Paula Ferrer Cheng, who is currently working on the app as her thesis, said.

“And considering na yung [first] PiaP is in English lang eh, so what I thought was to create something in Filipino and not just that, siyempre i-include mo yung emoticons, taglish and abbreviated texts.”

The mobile app is originally the brainchild of UST psychology professor Dr. Roann Ramos, Cheng’s Graduate School professor, and German computer scientist from Rhine-Westphalia Institute of Technology (RWTH) Aachen University Jó Agila Bitsch.

Cheng explained that Dr. Ramos was the one who gave her the idea to work on mobile apps back in 2014 when she was thinking of a research topic.

Dr. Ramos and Bitsch’s main purpose back in 2012 was to create something that combines both of their research interests that lead to the application initially intended for clinical psychologists to monitor their patients.

The Filipino version of PiaP is done in partnership with Tim Ix, a computer science MA student from RWTH Aachen University, who is currently under the Bitsch’s guidance.

A controversial topic

In the Philippines, mental illness and suicide are approached with stigma, being considered a taboo in a mostly religious and optimistic society.

Filipinos with depression often dismiss their symptoms as normal sadness out of fear of being ridiculed or bringing shame to their family. This keeps them from seeking the help that they need.

At present, the only non-profit organizations (NGO) in the Philippines advocating for mental health and suicide are Philippine Mental Health Association (PMHA) and the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation (NGF).

Jean Golbourn, president and founder of NGF, had told GMA News that “many Filipinos do not understand depression.”

Cases of depression and suicide in the Philippines are often unreported, as stated by the Department of Health (DOH) due to strong religious beliefs, resulting to the lack of statistics and further research on the said issue.

A World Health Organization (WHO) research reveals that out of 3 depressed Filipinos only one will seek help, the other will keep it to themselves and the third person will remain unaware of their illness.

According to “Preventing Suicide” published by the WHO in 2012, the estimated number of suicide in the Philippines totaled to 2,558 with 550 for females and 2009 for males.

Likewise there are those who mistake their normal sadness for depression, or use mental illness terms as clichés to express their emotions which further leads to misunderstanding and ridicule to the clinically diagnosed.

“Based on research, it is the most prevalent mental illness that can be said that can be experienced by adolescents, and siyempre adolescents can include college students din,” Cheng said.

Cheng also mentions that depression is often linked to a lot of negative effects such as “low grades, frequent absences, relationship problems, […] alcohol abuse and cigarette smoking.”

Others resort to the use of social media as their emotional outlets, often letting out their feelings through tweets or Facebook statuses as a way to self-medicate.

Four Thomasians who had been part of Cheng’s focus-group discussion and answered her questionnaires shared that they prefer sharing their sentiments on social media rather than in face-to-face conversations.

Limitations

Cheng says that one of the difficulties with the research is that people who are very private might consider the app to be intrusive and cause them to be hesitant in trying it out.

However, the app is said to have an option where you can limit which applications the PiaP will analyze.

Cheng warns that dependence on the app is not enough because “it doesn’t really tell you if you have depressions because it has to be a clinical diagnosis.”

“You may have clinical depression because you have these symptoms, but it’s not yet context-based,” Cheng adds. “[It’s] unlike when you’re talking to someone, you know what she’s trying to say based on the tone of the voice, on how she said it or why the person said it.”

She warns further that “just like any other test […] any person can fake it.”

The PiaP is still currently in its experimental stage, administering the preliminary version to college students to check its effectiveness. Cheng mentions their plan to add voice analysis, locator and eye-tracking plug-ins in the future to solve limitations.

Cheng finished BS Psychology as her undergraduate studies in 2009 and entered the graduate program for Clinical Psychology in 2013.  She started working on PiaP as her research topic last year.

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CSC pushes for online class suspension amid UST guidelines

The Central Board recommended the use of online modules like “handouts, video tutorials, and pre-recorded lectures” which the students can use during the break.

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Carmina Beatriz Dizon/TomasinoWeb

Eight days after Metro Manila was put under a “community quarantine,” the UST Central Student Council (CSC) Central Board pushed for the suspension of online classes until April 14, 2020 amid the University’s alternative teaching-learning guidelines.  

To make most of the month-long class suspension due to the community quarantine which was later heightened by the government, online classes were introduced to carry on with the semester.

CSC President Robert Dominic Gonzales, however, stressed the differences in the resources of the students to support their online classes.

Students continue to face challenges in complying to these online activities due to factors like internet stability and lack of gadgets like computers and laptops.

A survey was conducted among local colleges to monitor the concerns and statuses of the Thomasian community.

For instance, in the College of Commerce and Business Administration and College of Tourism and Hospitality Management, more than half of the students of each college have no stable internet connection.

The Board recommended the use of online modules like “handouts, video tutorials, and pre-recorded lectures” which the students can use during the break.

Focusing on other matters

In light of the pandemic, Gonzales emphasized the need for the psychological and mental health of the community to be focused on, which is not only limited to the students.

The well-being of the faculty members, non-academic personnel, and the administration is a matter of priority as well in this time of crisis.

Gonzales is with high hopes to the administration’s approval of CSC’s appeal.

“I am sure that the administration listens to our concerns, most especially during these crucial times,” Gonzales said.

He also expressed his gratitude to the backbone of the University amid this health-related crisis.

“[W]e also give utmost gratitude and salute to them for all the efforts that they have exhausted to ensure a holistic approach on the well-being of the Thomasian community,” he added.

When asked if it is most likely to extend the second semester if the administration approves the appeal, Gonzales said that: “The decisions regarding the academic calendar and special terms are to be determined by the administration.”

However, the Board alongside local colleges are “much willing to provide help and support” the endeavors of the University by seeking suggestions from the student body.

 

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UST shifts to self-paced instruction amid quarantine period

The University’s updated Collective Institutional Guidelines on COVID-19 notes that the current state of calamity and quarantine regulations limit the capacity of students and faculty members to participate in regularly scheduled online classes.

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Jacqueline Martinez/TomasinoWeb

[UPDATED] The University will now implement a self-paced instruction amid the quarantine period in Luzon

In the University’s updated Collective Institutional Guidelines on COVID-19 released on March 20, “[r]egularly scheduled daily online classes shall no longer be required” for both students and faculty members.

The updated guidelines notes that the current state of calamity and quarantine regulations limit the capacity of students and faculty members to participate in regularly scheduled online classes.

Faculty members shall still continue providing learning materials which includes video lectures, readings and discussion sessions for students’ self-paced instruction in preparation for formal instruction once classes resume.

Academic unit heads will also determine which examinations or alternative assessments will be held online, or will require in-campus conduct once classes resume.

ADVISORYIn view of the enhanced community quarantine, we advise all Thomasians to heed the government’s mandate to…

University of Santo Tomasさんの投稿 2020年3月20日金曜日

Preliminary and final examinations may still be be integrated depending on the academic units “provided that there were enough student assessments aside from final examinations.” Students must also be informed of the changes in the grading system of affected courses.

The Office of the Vice-Rector for Research and Innovation also suspended all in-campus and off-campus research data gathering, as well as research-related local and international travels. Researchers were advised to do alternative activities.

Meanwhile, the schedule of moving-up ceremonies and commencement exercises will be determined once classes resume and academic calendar has been finalized.

Last March 13, the Office of the Secretary-General suspended the online classes from March 13-14 to give way for personal and family concerns.

Online classes from March 17 to 21 were also cancelled to “allow faculty members and students to attend to personal and family concerns,” “give faculty members time to revisit their course plans,” and “allow students to attend to pending tasks and submissions that were given in the past week.”

President Rodrigo Duterte placed the National Capital Region on a community quarantine from March 15 to April 14, with regular class suspensions in the region extended until April 14.

The code alert system for COVID-19 was raised to code red alert sub-level 2 which indicates evidence of community transmission.

All land, domestic air, and domestic water transportation to and from Metro Manila were barred, and only workers coming from nearby provinces were allowed to enter Metro Manila. Mass gatherings were also prohibited.

As of March 20, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country is now at 230, with 18 fatalities.

On support staff, faculty evaluation, and admission process

Work for all staff shall “remain suspended until further notice” including skeletal workforce arrangement. Only selected on-site workers were allowed to perform work, according to the University’s Human Resource Department memorandum. 

Social distancing should also be observed during the work and all staff are “enjoined to observe work from home arrangement […] to maintain productivity.”

University admission activities for A.Y. 2020-2021 (reservation, confirmation, and enrollment) shall be scheduled once the classes resume. 

Academic units shall also coordinate with the Office of Admissions “to release the appropriate announcements to their respective applicants”.

Meanwhile, the faculty competence evaluation for the second semester will be scheduled once classes resume. It was encouraged “to provide qualitative comments” in the faculty evaluation to highlight their strengths, and help them [address] areas of improvement amid the regular class disruptions. A. Basa with report from J. A. Pangilinan

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CSC president clarifies University hair policies

Robert Dominic Gonzales, the incumbent CSC president, noted the vagueness of the provision in the student guidelines, hence the decision of the administration to clarify the said rule.

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Veronica Besario/TomasinoWeb

After garnering varied reactions from students, the University’s Central Student Council (CSC) president explained the clarification of guidelines regarding hair color and hair cut.

Robert Dominic Gonzales, the incumbent CSC president, noted the vagueness of the provision in the student guidelines, hence the decision of the administration to clarify the said rule.

“Nakalagay lang kasi dito ‘students’ hairstyle should be clean, combed and neatly trimmed or fixed. Unconventional hair colors are not permitted,’” Gonzales said quoting from the student’s handbook.

It was the clamor from the students and college deans alike that they sought to draw the line between conventional and unconventional hair colors.

“Basically, there were a lot of clamors from the past few years regarding sa portion dito about unconventional hair colors. So this year they sought to clarify the matters kung ano ba talaga ang tinutukoy na unconventional,” Gonzales expressed.

He reiterated: “When this handbook was released, they did not post any color palette or color shades of those unconventional hair colors.”

He also emphasized that the decision came from the college deans themselves, elaborating: “Majority if I’m not mistaken of the deans voted for the conventional hair colors which was released recently. Yung mga darkest black to darkest brown.”

When asked whether he’s for or against the said policy, Gonzales stated that such rule has no relationship with the students’s academic standing.

“With regards naman if we’re pro or against it, of course, personally speaking, it’s about personally expressing yourself ganoon I’m against the hair policy,” he said.
He further added, “For me, it has no direct relationship whatsoever with the academic performance ng tao.”

Students’ reactions

Meanwhile, this implementation of policy gained varied responses and backlash among the students of the University.

For a student from College of Science, it has been a matter of students subjecting themselves in following institutional guidelines upon enrolling to the university.

“Kasi like kahit ako, I want to color my hair din pero kasi at the same time sinabi ko na sa sarili ko na UST ‘to alam kong medyo hindi nila bet ‘yun, so kumbaga I mentally prepared myself for it like ‘di na ako nag-expect masyado from them,” the student stated.

However, Arts and Letters student Gwen Forones questioned the implementation of the policy, saying “[I don’t know] what are they trying to prove in implementing similar cases just like this when in fact hair color does not hinder academic standing and competence.”

She further added: “[H]indi ba sa panahon ngayon, it is more reliable to pay attention on building students’ drive and character rather than nitpicking their appearances.”

Forones also took a swipe on the conflicted priorities of the system, saying “[O]ur education system seems to be persistent in promoting personal growth.”
She elaborated, “and yet they keep on implementing a policy which restrains the students’ rights to express themselves without causing any harm.”

On a circular dated Feb. 19, the Office of the Secretary-General released a clarificatory announcement regarding acceptable hair style and colors to its students.

According to the guideline addressed to the University administrators, students must be limited to the prescribed spectrum of colors from Level 1 (darkest black) to Level 5 (dark brown).

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