Issue of September 8, 2019
Mt. Province
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Citizen walks the extra mile for mental health awareness
by Hanna C. Lacsamana

With three members of her family struggling with mental health disorders, Raquel Verzosa knows it wasn’t easy, but knew better by showing strength in a situation that demands a lot from her. As she says, “Who else can they get that (strength) from?”

In accepting the toast from members of the prestigious Society of Outstanding Citizens of Baguio (Socob), of which she is now one of the four newest members, Verzosa thanked the city but shared that being recognized as one of Baguio’s outstanding citizens for community service this year is not about herself but the people she is able to reach out, the lives she has touched, the hearts she has inspired, and the lost hopes that have been revived.

Among others, Verzosa, along with her family, is a mental health advocate who has been offering their family restaurant as a venue for helping those with mental difficulties, aside from using it for customer service training and skills training assessment and national certification.

During the awardees’ testimonial on Sept. 2 at Hotel Supreme, Verzosa said if not for love and passion, things will be more challenging that she would have given up on the first difficulty. For her, having the passion for training and teaching to inculcate the right attitude for work, and loving what she does is a blessing.

She learned to draw inspiration and turn a personal battle into a far-reaching endeavor from her family’s struggles. Her husband has been struggling with bipolar disorder. Their daughter, Kylie, has clinical depression and anxiety disorder; and another daughter Chelsea has bipolar, trichotillomania, and histrionic personality disorders.

“I used to be ashamed of all these but I realized, how can I help remove the stigma if I am embarrassed to share this? Now we are all out, mental health an open topic in the family, hoping to spread mental health awareness to de-stigmatize and let people know that depression and the struggle are real, and there is a need to remove the stigma,” Verzosa said.

She said they want people to know that in spite of the disorder, a person can still function and contribute in the society. In her family’s case, her husband manages different businesses, Kylie won the Ms. International 2016 crown and now an actress, and Chelsea has proved her worth as a dynamic trainer and assessor at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority – despite their disorders.

Verzosa said the task is not easy – when one or all of them suffer and have their episodes at the same time – but it taught her many virtues such as unconditional love, patience, humility, and simplicity.

She added that anybody can share to help those who suffer from depression and other mental health disorders: “Listen to them when they start talking about themselves and how they feel. Do not tell them kulang lang sila sa pansin at nag-iinarte lang sila. Listen to what they are not saying. As they say, ‘If you cannot understand my silence, you will not understand my words’.”

Verzosa and fellow awardees Albert Guinguino, Jr., also for community service and Dr. Socorro Sarfati and Baguio Water District General Manager Salvador Royeca for professional service received their respective Socob pins and medallions.

Socob chair Dr. Elma Donaal has urged them to value its importance and live out what these symbolize.

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