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Jasmine Curtis-Smith: World Visionary

Try Googling Jasmine Curtis-Smith, and one of the frequent articles you’ll see written about her is her close ties with World Vision, a global humanitarian aid, development, and advocacy organization that partners with children, families, and their communities, to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. Jasmine has been an active volunteer since 2008, before becoming an Ambassador in 2010, making this one of two advocacies very close to her heart—the second being mental health awareness.

In the third part of our cover story, our September 2018 #CalyxtaGirl had some bold but very truthful words to say about the current issues happening in our country particularly the stigma on mental illness, and how it’s the lack of our society’s awareness and openness that lead them to still judge or have the wrong mindset about it. It was a pretty heavy discussion—one that hit close to home, because of someone I care about currently going through depression. And if I had to be completely honest, even I have my fair share of episodes going into a dark place, that my way of coping with it is in the form of writing. We all know a friend, or a brother, or a classmate, or an officemate going through or struggling with something—which is exactly why Calyxta stands with Jasmine in making mental health awareness significant enough to be talked about, to get rid of the stigma, and to help others help others.

As a World Vision Ambassador, can you share with our readers what you do for them, and how they can help even if it’s in the smallest of ways?

I’ve been volunteering for World Vision since around 2008. It started when I was doing the 40-hour famine in Australia, and I was doing online fundraising at the same time. It was encouraged by my cousin. And then after that, when I started a career here in 2010, they asked if I could be their Ambassador in the Philippines. And so, I’ve been doing relief projects for them—like after typhoons, we would visit places for relief operations. They do also community check-ups so that they can install programs in the community. They do livelihood programs, they do medical missions, they cover all basics of the communities, but the main project that World Vision really has and what we work on is the sponsorship for kids. What we try to do there is we just ask people if they can sponsor one kid, because for the amount that you’ll be shelling out for a kid, I mean if you are more than capable, it’s just like a Starbucks a day. If you can afford a Starbucks a day, you can afford to sponsor a child. And you know, this kid will grow up with complete education, with healthcare, with the community, with programs about their faith, cleanliness, and health. We try to encourage kids to see that it’s possible to have opportunities more than what is presented by the state schools or public schools, because even though they can afford to go to school or their parents can pay for tuition fee in state or public schools, you won’t get a wholistic health from a public school. You won’t get a faith-integrated program, or you won’t get knowledge about health, check-ups, and whatever. That’s the great thing about World Vision.

Aside from being a World Vision Ambassador, what other advocacies are close to your heart?

The other thing that’s close to my heart is the Mental Health Awareness advocacy, because it’s growing. Maybe not so prominent in our country compared to the Western countries or anywhere else in the world. But I believe that it’s significant enough to be talked about, and for people to start reading into it. I’ve been trying to attend talks and sharing my own story about it for people to see that, “Okay, she has a happy façade, her posts and whatever, but you know, inside she’s dealing with this or she already knows how to deal with this.” Because I, myself, went through the stigma here and even with people that I love—so that hit me the hardest. If there are students that feel like they can’t open up about it to their teachers, then what kind of community or what kind of young generation are we raising, if we can’t be open about our feelings and our emotions? And more than raising awareness about depression, anxiety, bipolar, ADHD, etc., it’s really just me trying to let people know that you can validate your feelings. If you want to be sad, be sad. Don’t pretend to be happy if you’re not. Masisiraan ka talaga ng ulo. I just really, really want to make people feel that you can go through your feelings. From way back, men were not allowed to feel anything. They had to be the man of the house and pay off the bills and whatever. Women were known as fragile, sensitive, etc. Now it’s just bringing that openness to feelings and emotions, and with no judgment as much as possible. Because it’s such a judgmental society! Even if you’re not a celebrity, holy cow, if your picture goes viral, so many people will bully you already. So those are the two things close to my heart—the children of the Philippines, and also mental health of the Philippines.

We read actually that you went through anxiety and depression before. How did you cope with it and what message can you give young women going through the same thing?

Well, to be honest, I’m still actually going through it. I’ve been going through therapy for about six to seven years now, on and off, because I feel like, and well, my therapists also feel like, “Kaya mo naman. It’s more of you need confirmation.” Because I’m too mabusisi nga with everything, so even with myself, I’m like, “Haaa? I feel like I’m depressed again.” or “I’m like this again, what do I do?And my only advice is to really, if you don’t know what to do, ask someone. Ask someone who you’re most comfortable with, and if it doesn’t work out with them, look elsewhere. Because you’ll find someone who will be able to understand you, and be able to help you. Ask for help—that’s all it takes. “Excuse me, I need help.” And if they don’t want to help you, get rid of them. Because I’ve had people like that, and I’m getting rid of them now. For six years, I’ve been saying, “I need help. I need to talk to you.” And it was just, “That’s all in your head.” It IS all in my head! That’s why I need help! Because it’s not going out! And I don’t know how! So, you know, it’s that. And it’s hard to bring yourself there. I understand, because I want to be stuck in my bed, I don’t want to go out. To be honest, coming here today was. Going to work every day for me, going to taping and shoots, I feel like I have to prepare myself the day before that I have to face people. I have to manage myself, and be okay with that. For some people, it might not be that easy to cure or to heal yourself, but you should accept that because sometimes, it just dips in and out. And maybe that’s the type of depression that I have. I’ll be okay for a year and for a whole other year, I don’t know. I’ll need help again. If you have to take medication, take it. Because only your doctor will know. And also, read up and do your research—because maybe our medical officials here aren’t as well-executed yet, because of lack of support from the government. Everyone’s trying to make their own efforts, and I’m just happy that even people in the medical profession are doing their own efforts to research, to fund it, to put up clinic hours when it’s for free and pro-bono for them. For me, these are the things that people like me, who have anxiety, depression, or both, or are bipolar, or have ADHD, etc., can attend and learn more—so that they can help themselves more.

How do you think we can erase the stigma of depression and anxiety here in the country where people can be either close-minded or judgmental?

I think we need to showcase the people who we least expect—like farmers. Do you expect them to be depressed Like you’ll tell them, “You need to harvest today. Why are you depressed? Magtrabaho ka.” Or with artistas, “You need to act until 4AM tomorrow. You have no time to be depressed.” And these are people who we tend to ask, “Why would they be depressed?” Or those who sell fish in the market. But true enough—they just don’t know what depression is, but they’re already in there, and I think those are the things that can help remove the stigma. Every socioeconomic background, job title, etc.—it helps to have a representation in every field, in every aspect of whatever makes us up as a human. Because we tend to only agree if the whole tribe agrees, so we need to see that the whole tribe is going through that in order to say, “Okay, there’s no stigma. I will listen and pay attention.” And that’s what happened to me and someone in my life recently. For six years I’ve been saying, “Here is the diagnosis of my doctor.” Nothing. “It’s all in your head. It’s just sleeping late. It’s just your friends.” And because someone in that person’s life, who was a relative, went through it, she understood. And then she started listening to me as well. So sometimes, it just takes that. Unfortunately, it has to take that extra step for someone like that person to understand, and maybe that’s the majority of our country—it’s that person. They just don’t know. It’s never been a problem or discussed here, because we’re a poor country and that’s the more important problem-we’re poor. There are people dying because of hunger, but who cares about people dying of suicide, right? That’s what we want to change. That if you care about people dying because they’re poor and because of EJK, then maybe we should also care about people dying because they’re EJK-ing their heads. Depression is a drug that they can’t get rid of.

Be sure to catch Jasmine’s last cover video, Indie Beauty, coming out next week, as our cover stories come into full circle with her talking about her upcoming show and independent films.

Editorial Assistant: MAAN FERNANDEZ
Editorial Intern: RONNI ANTONIO
Videographer: ANDREW APUYA
Photographer: KITKAT PAJARO

Special Thanks toTODAY X FUTURE

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