MANILA - It was only in hindsight that actress Shamaine Buencamino realized that her daughter Julia showed signs of depression and suicidal tendencies.
Julia was a "very happy child" who liked to socialize, not the stereotypical depressed child who was reclusive, recalled Shamaine.
But behind the joyful facade apparently hid a "very scary" illness that eventually took over.
"Unless you’re looking at the possibility of your child having this illness, you won’t see it," she told ANC's Headstart.
She advised parents to read up on signs of depression online, even if the spectrum is wide and doctors have debates on the illness.
When finally familiar with these signs, parents should ask their children if they are suicidal because "unless they say so, you won’t know," she said.
Months before Julia took her own life, Shamaine recalled seeing cuts on her daughter's legs, which the 15-year-old attributed "accidents" in school.
Her father, Nonie, pursued it but ended up arguing with Julia who questioned why her parents did not believe her.
"It stems from the stigma, it stems from the fear of the person suffering that they won’t be accepted for being broken…They are beautiful even if they are broken," said Shamaine.
"Brokenness makes them beautiful: they write well, they paint, they’re very sensitive," she said.
Julia had journals, wrote poems and created drawings which were sometimes kept from her parents but sometimes were left lying around their home, said Shamaine.
After Julia passed away, her family brought her belongings in for a "psychological autopsy," which revealed that she had borderline personality disorder and has suffered from depression since she was 12.
"We think it’s impossible that it will happen to our child because we do everything for our children, we try to make them happy, we give them what we can. We never think that they’re in pain," she said of parents.
"When they don’t manifest it, when they don’t show it, we think they’re fine; but they can hide. The disease is so scary that it makes the sufferer hide it," she added.
Three years since Julia passed away, Shamaine and Nonie spearheaded a project that would advocate awareness on mental health disorders and why people should talk about it.
Together with broadcast journalist TJ Manotoc, who also revealed he battled depression for years, the Buencaminos worked on an exhibition called #WillYouStillLoveMe.
It drew inspiration from one of Julia's poems and aims to encourage those in a similar situation to reach out and ask for help, to speak and be heard.
It will open on July 14 at White Space in Makati City.