In my travels, particularly in Korea, Singapore, and Thailand, I did minister to countless OFWs waiting for support.
Generally, before a Filipino leaves his/her country for an overseas job, he/she undergoes a PDOS (pre-departure orientation seminar) at the government’s POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Agency) office.
This seminar is important since it aims to prepare the OFW to life working overseas. It’s not just an economic journey. It’s also very psychological, emotional, and spiritual.
As Jejomar Binay, former Philippine Vice-President, put it,
“It’s difficult to be away from our loved ones. OFWs and their families could develop depression and other mental health problems.”
Is the government PDOS meeting the objective of mental health care for our OFWs?
Here’s what GMA NEWS TV found out from Rhodora Abaño, an officer of the Center for Migrant Advocacy: “The seminar is not sufficient to prepare them for overseas work. The objective is not met.”
Abaño, during the tv interview, explained that the PDOS, which could have sufficiently prepared a Filipino worker mentally, falls short of educating first-time overseas workers.
My own experience in working with OFWs as well as varied documented research studies show that our OFWs are largely unprepared psychologically to separate from loved ones and work abroad.
Such is well evidenced by the rising official statistics on broken marriages and families among millions of OFWs.
The harm it is giving to the very basic building block of Philippine society and national well being is the reason why adequate and proper management of mental health care for OFWs is direly needed.