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Fashion designer sheds light on family’s role in mental health and healing

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. 

Also Read: Teenager saves 6 lives with handwritten notes

Natasha Goulbourn Foundation
Jean Goulbourn (far right) regularly travels all over the Philippines to mentor students, teachers, guidance counselors, and parents through the Foundation’s Wellness Caravans.

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.

One of the biggest barriers to people getting the proper mental healthcare in this country is that there simply aren’t enough mental health professionals in the first place. In a country with over 108 million people, there are only an estimated 5,000 licensed mental health professionals available. Jean hopes to address this issue with the MINDSTRONG Movement, the foundation’s latest project. Through this, the foundation hopes to establish a scholarship program for mental health professionals to fill the void, and to continue mentoring the next generation of psychologists, psychiatrists, guidance counselors, and create a greater network of support for those who need it. Jean’s hope is that through organizations like NGF and MINDSTRONG, future generations will make the cultural shift into a society that is more compassionate toward people who may be suffering in silence.


For the full article, grab a copy of My Pope Philippines September 2019 issue.
Text by by Cristina Sebastian. Photos courtesy of Jean Goulbourn.SUBSCRIBE NOW




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