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‘Depression is not a sign of weakness’ – Jean Goulbourn


Depression can hit anyone, according to Jean Goulbourn, president of the non-profit Natasha Goulbourn Foundation (NGF).

“Even the [seemingly] happiest, like Robin Williams—he made people happy, he looked happy—but it's not about being happy,” said Goulbourn in a News to Go video Tuesday. “Pag tinamaan po kayo ng depression, para lang din kayong tinamaan ng flu. Para kayong natamaan ng dengue.”


Goulbourn urged those who may be suffering from depression to reach out and ask for help. The NGF is dedicated “to bringing depression to light” through educational lectures, confidential crisis lines and referrals to partner psychologists.

Symptoms and stigma

Goulbourn created the foundation in honor of her daughter, Natasha, who ended her life 12 years ago.

Goulbourn had no inkling that Natasha was depressed before her death. However, she acknowledged that there had been symptoms that she unfortunately did not put together at the time: her daughter's insomnia, lack of appetite, constantly saying that she'd be prettier if she lost weight. That was when Goulbourn thought of bringing Natasha to the doctor; after being given medication, Natasha often said that so many things literally lost color—the trees were no longer green, the ocean no longer blue. All became black and white in her perception.

Goulbourn founded the NGF seven years ago, five years after Natasha's death.

“Napansin ko na wala talagang organisasyon o asosasyon na nakakapagtulong o nakakapagbigay ng information sa mga tao tungkol sa itong sakit na ito,” she said.

There are a lot of mistaken assumptions about people with depression—that they're self-centered, self-indulgent, or even crazy.

“Maraming mga belief ang mga Filipino people—but [this] is not the right information na nakukuha nila,” said Goulbourn. “Ang akala nila baliw ang depression. Ang unang-unang kailangan nilang malaman ay...ang depression ay hindi baliw.”

There are many causes of depression. According to WebMD.com, these include:

  • Genetics
  • Abuse (physical, sexual, or emotional)
  • Certain medications
  • Conflict
  • Death or a loss
  • Major events
  • Other personal problems
  • Serious illnesses
  • Substance abuse

It is worth noting that “depression does not result from a single event, but from a combination of recent events and other longer-term or personal factors,” according to BeyondBlue.org, a site that dispenses information on depression and anxiety.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Perpetual sadness/loneliness
  • Loss of hope
  • Feeling useless
  • Loss of interest in any activity
  • Excessive tiredness/listlessness
  • Inability to concentrate, remember details, or make decisions
  • Insomnia (2-3 hours of sleep a day) or oversleeping (14-17 hours a day)
  • Overeating or lack of appetite
  • Thinking about suicide
  • Headaches, bodily pains, cramps, and digestive problems that don't go away even when treated

Goulbourn advised seeking professional help if you or a loved one is experiencing these symptoms consecutively over a period of three months.

More exercise, the right food

Depression can be aggravated by the changes modern life has made to our diet and regular habits. “[Y]ung pagkain natin ngayon, karamihan, de lata,” said Goulbourn. “Karamihan yung mga instant noodles—grabe ang seasoning, synthetic drug. That is the one that gives us a bodily chemical imbalance. Sa dugo lang natin, imbalanced na tayo.”

She also pointed out that for many families, honest-to-goodness communication has been replaced by too much time on laptops and cellphones for children and long hours at work for parents.

Those working night shifts, say at call centers, are also susceptible to depression.

“Normally, it's a combination of araw-araw, may nangyayari, palaging frustrated ka sa trabaho. Tapos yung hours, gabi ang trabaho mo—yun ang worst, kapag nakikinig ka sa phone at minumura ka...talagang grabe yan kasi lahat ng negative, naabsorb. So kailangan ng tao marunong magshield sa sarili niya para hindi mawala yung energy niya,” she said.

While seeking professional help and reaching out to others are important, Goulbourn advocated eating a balanced, nutritious diet and doing regular exercise, especially running every day, in order to release endorphins, the "happy" hormones.

“Yung happy feeling, yung being in love with life, being in love with yourself—makukuha natin 'yun pag every day, you are active,” she said. “Yung mabilis sa paglalakad—hindi sa shopping mall,” she joked.

She added that the foundation will be encouraging companies to open their own "hopelines" connected to the NGF so that they may gather reliable statistics for themselves.

The foundation is leaving nothing to chance, as they have also reached out to the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines with regard to talking about depression.

“Ang hinihingi ko rin sa mga pari at saka kay Cardinal Tagle na magbigay ng pastoral letter na yung mga nagpakamatay, pwedeng magkaroon ng Catholic burial,” said Goulbourn. “Yun din ang kinakatakutan ng mga parents.” — Vida Cruz/BM, GMA News


The Natasha Goulbourn Foundation's 24/7 Hopelines are (632) 804-4673 and 09175584673.
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