RC Makati provides a platform for compassion, mental health care
The Rotary Club of Makati has unveiled a groundbreaking 2-in-1 vision adeptly combining action and compassion, serving as a powerful testament to the essence of service.
At RC Makati's weekly meeting last Tuesday, 21 November 2023 at the Peninsula Manila, officers and members shared recent accomplishments highlighting the Club's dedication towards community service.
Under the leadership of RC Makati president Senen "Bing" Matoto, the Club celebrated a milestone last 17 November, launching a program aimed at addressing healthy eating in the indigenous Dumagats community.
This initiative, marked by efficient planning and execution, targeted the nutritional needs of undernourished underage individuals, providing a 120-day supply of complementary meals. The program has already left a significant impact on the well-being and development of children in the community.
A formal agreement with project workers solidified commitments, emphasizing the success of this particular initiative. As part of the project, the club generously distributed toys to the children, creating smiles and lasting memories.
Dedication and collaboration were showcased by the Rotary Club of Makati, embodying the true essence of service.
A special personality
Amid this display of compassion and action, last Tuesday's event welcomed a special personality in the person of the Club's guest speaker last Tuesday, Jean Goulbourn, founder and president of the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation, named after her daughter who, tragically, lost her life through depression, in 2002.
Other than the brilliant mark she has made in Philippine fashion with her smart stylish JM Goulbourn RTW brand launched at SM Boutique Square in the mid-1970s, and her New World Makati atelier, Silk Cocoon's stunning fine apparel made of natural fibers and formal barongs crafted from local hand-woven silk which then President Fidel V. Ramos had commissioned her to make for the world leaders who came to Manila for the APEC Summit in 1996, Goulbourn is known for her advocacy and commitment to mental health awareness.
Established in 2007, her non-profit NGF, which is also now known as NGF Mindstrong, is the Philippine representative to the International Association for Suicide Prevention, the World Health Organization's mental health partner.
Ending the stigma on mental health problems
The foundation puts strong emphasis on ending the stigma, shame, and fear surrounding mental health problems in general and suicide in particular.
Alarmingly, suicide is now among the world's most common causes of death, including in the Philippines which is dealing with an increase in the number of people suffering from mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.
NGF's symbol, the dolphin, holds a special place in Jean Goulbourn's heart and mission. In "Dance of the Dolphins: Natasha's Story," a memorial written by Jean's other daughter, Katrina Goulbourn Feist, the latter wrote about how, a couple of weeks after Natasha had passed away, grieving family members and close friends were on a boat ride to a beach resort "seeking answers to sooth our broken hearts." On the boat ride heading home Jean prayed, asking Natasha for some kind of sign that she was alright.
Dolphins from nowhere
Suddenly, "as if from nowhere, a large pod of dolphins appeared, jumping in and out of the waves, dancing and playing alongside the bangka..," Katrina wrote.
Over a hundred dolphins were counted, dancing in five rows. "We were all crying. Eight minutes of leaping, smiling, beautiful dolphins.. And as they did a goodbye flip with their tails, eight pairs of dolphins went to the front of the bangka and escorted us back towards the port."
Said Katrina, "It was a magical moment in which the family felt Natasha's presence; perhaps she was giving hope and reassurance, a beginning towards healing."
That experience with the dolphins gave much comfort to Jean Goulbourn and it was at that point when the idea of establishing NGF to save lives and give hope to the mentally distressed was crystallized.
Depression can have serious consequences, including suicide, even though it is frequently hidden behind an appearance of normalcy.
Pay attention to signs
Jean Goulbourn emphasizes how important it is to "understand depression to decrease the risk of suicide" and to pay close attention to warning signs.
She remembered clearly that on the surface, her daughter seemed normal and very functional, and that she was not overly withdrawn from people around her. Jean reflects on Natasha's last days, making light-hearted reminders to family members and house staff to make sure her mother eats a balanced diet, to only buy nutritious foods, that she makes time for regular therapy treatments and trips to the beauty clinic. She also told her mother to take care of Zoe, her cocker spaniel.
"Were those her farewell signs?" was a question Jean often wondered after carrying out an in-depth study into the complexities of mental health. Depression is a common mental illness that manifests sadness, low energy, difficulty in concentration, guilt or feelings of low self-worth, inability to enjoy pleasure, and difficulty in sleeping and/or eating.
Jean encouraged people, especially parents, to be alert and be mindful about family members as depression-related problems can become persistent or recurrent and significantly worsen a person's capacity to function in daily life.
Suicide is a possible outcome of depression in its most extreme form. Ignoring persistent symptoms of depression can result in someone and as a result, NGF Mindstrong works tirelessly to end the stigma on depression through various activities including educational lectures and a 24/7 crisis hotline: HOPELINE.
She emphasized the need for collaboration and support to overcome challenges in raising funds for projects addressing mental health. Despite the progress she's made since she started NGF Mindstrong, Jean acknowledges challenges in raising awareness and funds due to the intangibility of mental health issues.
Overall, NGF's objectives are committed to empowering individuals suffering from depression, providing resources, professional help, and organizational linkages.
Jean Goulbourn says that as the NGF continues its mission, the message is clear: it's time to openly talk about mental health, to dispel the stigma and shame, and ultimately save lives.