Friday, July 8, 2016

JULIA'S BENCH

Last night.... I learned something very important as a mom.  DEPRESSION in children and teenagers do exist.  Some children may seem normal, but the reality is, a mental disease may be starting to lurk somewhere, penetrating the mind, and slowly sucking out the life and happiness from our kids.  And as parents --- do we know how to read the signs?

And these are the very thoughts.... of couple Shamaine and Nonie Buencamino, as they remember their daughter Julia on her first death anniversary.




The World Health Organization's "Health for the World's Adolescents" 2014 report reveals that depression is the predominant cause of illness and disability for both boys and girls aged 10-19. 


That is why, Shamaine and Nonie aim to do something for the adolescents suffering from mental illness.

"Whatever happened to Julia, it felt like God was telling us something, we couldn't figure out what it was before.  We were figuring things out and now, we felt we needed to make it public.  Now, we want to help others because we weren't able to help Julia.  She seemed so normal, had so many friends and was very active -- but after reading her journals and talking to psychologists, we learned that she had a disease which would hide itself so well. She wished we noticed it, but unfortunately we didn't.  Because we didn't know the signs."



Nonie and Shamaine, shared some of Julia's artworks and poetry, that speak about her thoughts and feelings in certain periods in her life.




LETTERS TO ALICE
THE SALT IN MY WOUNDS

WHEN MY MASK SHATTERS

Friends and co-artists in the different fields also graced the event -- Edru Abraham with Kontra Gapi; Kare Adea, principal dancer of Ballet Philippines;  and Viva Voce;









Grief educator, counsellor and mental health advocate Cathy Babao, shared inspiring words and urged people to sign the petition for the first Philippine Mental Health Act on mhactnow.org




Nonie and Shamaine continued to explain, "We are not professionals, but we want to open the process to make more people aware of depression, its different kinds and manifestations and how to address it.  The most important step in all this is to allow people to open up and talk about it.  We need to remove the stigma of society, accepting only those who are happy.  Dismissing a sad feeling as something that will just pass or forcing people who are feeling down to just 'get over it and get better'.  We think that depression does not occur in a person who can live normally, but it does.  It is the nature of the sickness to make the one suffering from it quiet about it.  We need to speak about it and not be afraid. We need to encourage people to talk about it so that they can ask for help."


Thus the idea of Julia's Bench.  It is a space for older children to meet new friends and share what's happening in their lives.  The bench was originally conceived and used in some schools in the U.S. for children to sit in when they had no playmates during recess. Most of them would find playmates in a matter of minutes by sitting on the bench.  Thus, the number of children roaming around without anyone to play with has greatly decreased. 

AMBIE BURAC EXPLAINING ABOUT JULIA'S BENCH
Julia's Bench encourages pre-teens and teens to get acquainted, hang out and talk.  It's a neutral space where judgements are suspended, where ONE CAN START TO ASK FOR HELP for anything that bothers them at home, in school, and where new friendships and new lives can begin.

For its first set up, Julia's Bench can be found at the Community of Learners Foundation. Julia spent some wonderful years in this school, headed by Teacher Feny de los Angeles Bautista. 


"MUNTING SALU-SALO SA ALA ALA NI JULIA"

Nonie and Shamaine shared, "to the parents, we can keep doing better to make more people aware of this.  Our children are hurting and we should have done something about it yesterday. We Can do something about it NOW.

The message that I got... depression and other mental illness, are just like cancer or diabetes.  Its an illness that you need to acknowledge, confront, put in the open and seek treatment, because there's hope and there is a treament.