“When my mask shatters and you see how broken I really am, will you still love me?”
So goes the poem written by Julia Louise Centenera Buencamino, daughter of theater and TV veterans, Nonie and Shamaine Buencamino. After Julia passed on at 15 years old in 2015, the couple has been proactive in raising public awareness and understanding on mental health issues.
“We wanted to help others, because we were unable to help our daughter,” says Shamaine. “We want to talk to parents and tell them what happened to us,” adds her husband Nonie. (Read: Fashion designer sheds light on family’s role in mental health and healing)
According to the couple, the family—especially parents—plays a huge role when it comes to giving support and love to children who might be suffering from mental health issues. “A lot of times the illness traps them (children) into pretending that they’re fine,” Shamaine explains. “The illness tells them that they’re not worth it, or that their problem should not be the problem of the family and should not be shared with others because they’re not good enough, they’re not worth it, and they should just own their problems.”
Mental illness, as we all know, is very dangerous. And parents need to be extra observant when it comes to what the kids are going through. “Our daughter didn’t let us know what she was going through,” Nonie shares. “It’s a very secretive illness and kids her age keep it to themselves because they are afraid of how their parents would react or what people would think and say.” (Read: On Mental Health: How to be a Light in the Dark)
To help more parents like them understand mental health issues better, Nonie and Shamaine sat with My Pope and listed down the most common misconceptions about mental health—plus how parents can address them.
“It would never happen to me or my family.”
The truth is, mental health problems can happen to anyone. It happens to “normal” people and “normal” families. Even Shamaine reveals that she always felt it was something that only happened to other people—but never to their family. (Read: Heart Evangelista on her depression, anxiety: ‘I battled for quite some time’)
“We were present as parents, our daughter was so loved, and she had lots of friends,” says Shamaine. “And so we’re here to warn parents that they should open their minds to the possibility that this could happen to them.”
“My child doesn’t look depressed.”
The picture of the depressed person as someone who isolates himself or herself, always cries, and cannot function well in society is a dated concept. “Julia was high- functioning, she went to school, had friends, she would go out and socialize,” Shamaine says.
Depressed people and those suffering from various mental health problems sometimes go through great lengths to show the world that they’re okay. It’s all because they are afraid of what people might say and think; young people, most especially, are scared about how their parents would react. (Read: How society’s perception on mental health changed through the years)
“Children these days are weak.”
“It’s not fair for children these days to be judged,” says Nonie. “To say something like, ‘Ano ba ‘yan, ang hihina ng mga bats ngayon!’ Or ‘Dati kapag pinagalitan kami, titino na kami...’ is not fair to them because their environment is so different now.” (Read: Actress Gloria Romero on Motherhood: “We also have to listen to our children.”)
Shamaine also emphasizes that a person’s mental state is a mix of various factors— chemical physiology, genes, technology, social media and the internet, their experiences and realities, among others. “Our youths watch other people having a grand time online, and then they start feeling sad. They start comparing and showing a public image, a mask. They pretend to be someone they’re not in their posts,” she says.
“Gawa-gawa lang nila ‘yan.”
Some people think that mental health problems are something that you can get rid of at will—or that if the child would just keep praying, he or she will feel better. “They don’t understand that it’s an illness,” says Shamaine who calls for parents to avoid invalidating the feelings of their children.
Nonie adds that one’s spiritual life will help by giving hope, but it’s not enough. “Nasa Diyos ang awa, pero nasa tao pa rin ang gawa,” he says. (Read: A Prayer For When You Feel Like Giving Up)
“Mental illness is something to hide or be ashamed of.”
It is important to help our children understand that whatever it is they are going through, it’s not something to be ashamed of. Parents need to find creative ways to get into the lives of their children to be able to understand and analyze what’s happening with them. (Read: Squabbling kids? Make them get along with these 3 simple tips!)
Nonie shares this tip: “Just spend time with them and stop talking. Just be with them and listen to them. Be interested. Sometimes you don’t need to keep asking, it’s enough to just be there. Give them your time and undivided attention wherein you are fully aware and mindful of them.”