The Natasha Goulbourn Foundation (or NGF) was founded in 2007 by famed Filipino fashion designer Jean Goulbourn as a way to raise awareness about depression––the disease that claimed the life of her daughter Natasha, the foundation’s namesake, in 2002.
Besides providing crisis intervention through the foundation’s HOPELINE, the NGF also offers a holistic approach to mental health and healing, led by some of the best psychologists and psychiatrists in the country. “The first thing that I said when I found out my daughter had committed suicide was ‘What did I not see? Where did I go wrong as a mother? What did I not feel?’ I’m now understanding the cause and symptoms of depression that lead to suicide. I realized I was completely and totally ignorant,” says Jean.
Today, Jean is a fierce mental health advocate, and she uses the foundation’s platform to educate as many people as she can about the importance of mental fitness and self-care.
The First Line of Defense
Jean is a firm believer in the family, specifically parents, as the first line of defense and support against depression and mental health problems. The expectation for children to be successful, usually through high-paying jobs, is often given more importance than a child’s happiness. She recounted a time when she delivered the commencement speech at Bicol University’s Polangui Campus, where she addressed the graduates and implored them to reclaim their futures if they had been forced into a course or career that they didn’t want. The parents were shocked, but she stressed the importance of giving “full joy, peace, and happiness to your children by listening to them and supporting them wherever they want to go.”
Shame of Suicide
There is still much work to be done, as the stigma against mental illness, all the more suicide, is still quite high in the Philippines. According to Jean, there are currently no available statistics on deaths by suicide in the Philippines. She explains that “families who lose their children beg the doctors and the hospitals to lie about the cause of death. They will never want to see on the death certificate that the death was a suicide.” According to her, hospitals and doctors are willing to lie about the cause of death, despite it being incorrect and unethical, to shield the family from the perceived shame that is associated with suicide in this country.
Text by by Cristina Sebastian. Photos courtesy of Jean Goulbourn.