On Deafness and Depression, [Deaf Youth Commits Suicide]

A couple of days ago (January 20), the entire Filipino Deaf Community (as shown in their Facebook reactions) was shocked when a twenty five year old deaf committed suicide by jumping off JR Borja Bridge in Cagayan De Oro City at around 9:55pm of January 19. Ryan C. Lutching, a former student of La Salle University – School for the Deaf in Ozamiz City and an active member of a deaf group in Mindanao, left his smartphone on top of his red bag turned on showing his suicide note before killing himself.

Facebook post courtesy of Bryan Maglangit Mutas

Brian Maglangit Mutas first posted the incident in his Facebook account. In his photos, bystanders and onlookers were looking at the bridge where it happened. I guess no one was there to save him during that time. Brian also took pictures of the messages that Ryan posted in his cellphone. Ryan’s body was found two days later (January 21) washed away at Macabalan river shore.

Facebook post courtesy of Ms. Sarah Osorio Talibong

Messages on his phone indicated that Ryan was apparently talking to his “Bro” or brother and that he is ending his life because he is undergoing depression. He said that he misses his father who already died and he felt alone because his relatives and other family members never talk to him. My deaf friends told me that only his father knows how to sign. Ryan also mentioned that he got jealous of his male friends who already have relationships and they even teased him for being single.

Ryan mentioned depress three times.
Ryan mentioned “depress” three times (Only two appeared here because the other one was in the previous page.) Note: I blocked the names of other persons mentioned to protect their privacy.

Strangely, Ryan posted this cryptic image on the same exact date he died one year ago. Some of my deaf friends informed me that it was his father who died on that day.

Ryan posted this in 2018 on the exact same date he committed suicide.

Earlier this month, Bryan Velasco, a Filipino rock band Razorback’s drummer fell to his death from a condominium. He was 41 years old, and it was an apparent suicide. Velasco jumped from the 34th floor and landed on a canopy. There were no other injuries. The drummer went live on Facebook and filmed his death Wednesday morning.

What is depression?
According to American Psychiatric Association, depression is…

a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed.

A few decades ago, depression is commonly associated from being sad and grieving from say a death of a loved one, losing a job or ending a relationship. But now, scientists have found out that it is a medical condition that distinguishes it from just “being sad”.

Symptoms of a Person undergoing Depression

You or your loved ones show signs of depression if they are:

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood for a couple of weeks or more
  • Losing interest or pleasure in activities previously enjoyed
  • Having changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
  • Having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Losing energy or increased fatigue
  • Increasing in purposeless physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Having difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
  • Thinking or mentioning about death or suicide

What about depression and deafness?

One reason why I made a post about this is to document the incident because until today, mainstream news media hasn’t picked it up. The other is to inform everyone that depression is a serious condition that affects everyone, including deaf people. Studies have found that deaf individuals have higher rates of psychiatric disorder than those who are hearing, while at the same time encountering difficulties in accessing mental health services. These factors might increase the risk of suicide. However, the burden of suicidal behavior in deaf people is currently unknown.

Deaf people are more vulnerable to depression and suicidal tendencies because:

  1. Most of them do not have someone to talk to. As what happened to Ryan, his father passed away and he was the only one he can communicate with. Other members of his family do not know sign language. Lack of communication results to low self-esteem, delays in learning and isolation.
  2. It’s hard to share or talk about how a deaf feels or thinks because they have a very small community. The deaf community is a very tight group. Everybody knows everyone. Telling one of them about your problem is like announcing it to the entire “nation”. This sometimes lead to embarrassment, negative branding and even becoming an outcast from the community.
  3. Many hearing people don’t know or understand Deaf culture. Some of them still perceive that deaf people are dumb (i.e. reading a broken English sentence), does not care about others (i.e. not mingling with other hearing people) and moves their hands and face like a fool (i.e. doing sign language and facial expression). These misconceptions often lead to teasing, discrimination and abuse.

I always love being with deaf people. I have no deaf relatives. But I have grown to love them for nearly 30 years. They are fun to be with and they basically “enjoy life”. But deaf people are primarily human beings who react from negative situations and emotions. They are more vulnerable to stress, mood swings and misery because of limited interaction with other people.

Sadly, as far as I know, there is no existing “Depression Helpline” in the Philippines that focuses on deaf people. The reason for this probably as enumerated above, is lack of trained counselors/medical personnel who can sign fluently and understand deaf culture.

If you know of any deaf person who is experiencing depression, try to…

  • Tell him to talk to a friend, family or someone he can trust.
  • Encourage him to visit a doctor and talk about his problem. The doctor will be able to check his mental health and discuss his next step. Remember to book an interpreter.
  • Be a friend. Learn sign language. Understand deaf culture.

Doing this may save his/her precious life.

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Deaf VS Hearing, anyone?

Although some hearing people have occasionally bully deaf people because they feel that they are more superior than them. Deaf people on the other hand tend to exhibit their “pity-me” effect to the hearing people in order to get concessions. But pitting them against each other is counter-productive and does not promote rights-based approach.

I got hold of this image from a Facebook page of my friend who got it from another friend. I felt amazed at how the image-maker compared the Deaf from the Hearing. Here it is:

Image

I don’t know where he got this view. Probably he is deaf.  But I believe most of the statements of comparison are true. Based on this I can summarize that deaf people are more open, blunt and straight-to-the-point while hearing people are more subdued, respecting and mind-your-own-business type.

Dear readers, what do you think?

Maria Lena Buhay Foundation: To talk and be heard in the silent world

Very rare do I post schools for the deaf using oral method of teaching because as you may have already noticed, I lean towards the sign language side. But for this one, I really need to repost it because of the wonderful work their institution have achieved these past 25 years. This article written by Angelo Garcia which was posted on the Manila Bulletin is about the first and one of the few successful oral schools in the Philippines, Maria Lena Buhay Foundation. Enjoy! 🙂

MUSIC TO THEIR EARS — This group of musicians (above) may look ordinary but they are all deaf.
MUSIC TO THEIR EARS — This group of musicians (above) may look ordinary but they are all deaf.

MANILA, Philippines — After almost 25 years, Maria Lena Buhay Memorial Foundation, Inc. (MLBMFI) founder and executive director Leticia Buhay proudly says that the school’s graduates are now productive citizens of society, despite their hearing impairment.

“We have a graduate who is now an entrepreneur and owns a chain of coffee shops. Another one, who graduated as valedictorian, now teaches at a prestigious school. Another one has his own graphic design company,” Buhay shares.

This success, Mrs. Buhay says, can be attributed to the fact that they have taught their hearing-impaired students how to speak. MLBMFI is the first oral school in the country for the hearing impaired.

“We believe that every hearing impaired child has the capacity to learn how to talk. We already have proven that in our 25 years of service,” she says. “For me, it is harder to teach a class of five hearing impaired students than 40 hearing students. Mas mahirap kasi, you have to keep on repeating they only hear the word for the first time, especially the younger level. But as a speech therapist, the moment a hearing impaired utter a word, umaapaw ang aking kaligayahan. That’s what gratifies us all.”

Today, the non-profit, non-stock school has become one of the most valuable institutions in the field of special education.

FULL COMMITMENT

MLBMFI was founded in June 1987 in honor of Mrs. Buhay’s daughter, Maria Lena or Lenlen, a Psychology student of Ateneo de Manila University who passed away due to cancer.

A speech therapist, Buhay gave in to the request of her patients’ parents to put up a school where their children could learn how to speak.

“The parents felt that since natututo na ‘yung anak nila how to speak, ayaw na nila sa sign school. Ayaw din naman nila sa regular school kasi there are 40 or so students baka mag lag behind. So they needed something special for them,” she recalls.

After planning, the school initially had 10 students and three teachers, including Mrs. Buhay. But by the end of the school year, the school already had a total of 26 students. Year after year, they added grade levels until they completed all levels from pre-school to high school. Since it was a non-profit school, they had to rely on sponsorships, donations and the tuition fees from students. Those who couldn’t GARCIAafford receive tuition subsidy.

When things became too busy and the responsibility too heavy for her, Buhay started getting sick. She was advised to close the school if she wanted to live longer.

“My children asked me to stop. But no, my commitment is there and I enjoy what I was doing. So I resigned from my job as a university professor to devote my time to these children. I was 50 then. I bargained with my children, we could open the preschool and grade school and call off the high school. Kasi the time when they reach Grade 6, nakakapagsalita na sila, many of them were mainstreamable. So lumiit na enrolment namin,” she recalls.

Today, the school caters to only 25 students from preschool to Grade 7 since they limit the number of students per level. They also accept full and partial scholarships, depending on the available sponsorship.

OPTION TO TALK

Mrs. Buhay says that one of the school’s main accomplishments is that they have shown parents of children with hearing impairment that there is another option other than just sign language.

“We made people aware that there is another option to help hearing-impaired children and not just to help them how to sign. In other words, there is an option to learn how to talk,” Mrs. Buhay explains.

She says that it is important that when a child is diagnosed with hearing impairment, he or she should immediately undergo speech therapy. The first five years of a child’s life is the most important period in speech and language acquisition.

“Normally a child at six months can already babble. But if after that period, the child has not spoken, there is a cause for alarm already. Speech is talking by ear. If the sounds do not enter your ear, if you do not hear anything, you will not be able to speak. That is why the children have hearing aids to magnify the sound. So parents can bring the child to a diagnostician for immediate intervention,” she advises.

Since MLBMFI students know how to speak they are able to communicate properly and they can do almost everything a hearing child can do. In fact, the school has its own rhythm band. A group of hearing impaired students can play different music instruments!

“We develop them holistically. We develop them socially, we bring them around town. We teach them basic skills like cooking. And they enjoy other activities like playing and listening to music,” she says.

MORE OPPORTUNITIES IN THE TALKING WORLD

Mrs. Buhay says that although the students may not speak clearly like hearing people can, the important thing is that they can be understood. One of the advantages of a speaking person with hearing impairment is gaining employment. Since they can communicate, they have bigger chances of being employed.

“If a hearing impaired person is able to talk, his chances of being employed will be greater. There are certain organizations and companies that employ hearing impaired,” she says.

“We have to accept it that this is a talking world. A great majority of us talk, only a few sign. If they are able to talk, it is easier for them to be mainstreamed and take their place, normally, in society where everybody talks. Your chances will be greater,” she says.

She admits that she doesn’t know what the future holds for them but because of her dedicated teachers and staff, she is sure that MLBMFI’s legacy will continue, even for the next 25 years.

Deaf people working in Mindanao killer mines?

Happy New Year everyone! This is my first post for the year 2012!

Last Wednesday, I again accompanied my graduating students to vital government agencies to secure personal documents which they will use in applying for jobs after they graduate. MCCID has been assisting its graduating students in getting government documents for many years now.

Our first stop was getting their authenticated birth certificates from the National Statistics Office (NSO). I briefed them beforehand that I would only be there to escort them to the office and occasionally provide them some tips on how to fill up the forms. But actual applying for it would all be theirs to experience, including falling in a very long line.

landslide in a mountain in compostela valley provinceSo while waiting for them inside, a twenty-something guy approached me as I was giving instructions to my students in sign language. He taught I was also deaf so he signed to me. Surprised, I signed in return. I introduced myself politely although I hinted that he is also a hearing person. When I asked him if he can hear, he nodded. That was when we started introducing ourselves “normally”.

He begged not to disclose his full name. Being a Jehovah’s Witness exposed him to the deaf and sign language. He was at the NSO to get his birth certificate as part of the requirements in his job application.  When  he mentioned he was from Compostela Valley in Mindanao, I immediately asked him if there are deaf people working in the gold mines there. I want to know because of the recent news wherein a landslide in that province killed more than 30 persons. He claimed that there are at least five unschooled deaf adults toiling in the mines. He knew them first hand because in their religion, they are very faithful in doing house-to-house visitations to the deaf people. He was able to minister to some of them even for those who don’t know how to read and are unfamiliar with sign language. He felt sorry for them because their superiors don’t give them equal pay as compared with the regular mine workers even if they are exposed to the same dangers.

My next inquiry was if there were deaf workers who died in the recent landslide. He replied that there weren’t any deaf casualties out of the more than 30 persons who wasted their lives. This is a relief. But it’s still tragic that people, even those who cannot hear, must expose themselves to potential dangers just so they get a meager amount for their daily sustenance. I hope that the government would learn from this lesson and not to allow them to go back working in those danger zones.

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PRC vows reforms in aid of Deaf Licensure Exam for Teachers takers

PRESS RELEASE

October 18, 2011

The Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) has committed to implementing reforms that will make the licensing examination for teachers more accessible to the Deaf.

In a dialogue with various organizations of the Deaf last Tuesday, PRC Chairperson Teresita R. Manzala vowed that such reforms would be in place when the Licensure Examination for Teachers is administered in March 2012.

The dialogue was facilitated by ACT Teachers Party-List Representative Antonio Tinio. The participants included leaders of the Philippine Federation of the Deaf led by its President, Rey Lee; Philippine Deaf Resource Center Executive Director Dr. Liza Martinez; Dean Nikki Perez of the School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies of the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde; and Raphael Domingo of the Philippine Coalition-UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

PRC Chairperson Manzala was joined by Board for Professional Teachers Chairperson Dr. Faith M. Bachiller, and Director Amelia T. Empaynado of the Licensure Office.

The deaf activists and advocates raised concerns regarding the accessibility of the LET for deaf education graduates. According to them, Deaf education graduates find it difficult to pass the LET due to lack of sensitivity to the particular needs of Deaf takers. They pointed out the acute shortage of deaf teachers in the public school system’s Special Education centers, which can be filled if measures for the “reasonable accommodation” of deaf LET takers are taken by the PRC.

The PRC vowed to implement “transitional measures” for the upcoming LET in March 2012, such as allowing accredited interpreters to explain examination instructions in sign language and making changes to the physical arrangements to accommodate deaf exam takers. The Board of Professional Teachers will also work in close consultation with the Deaf community to craft better policies, including the drafting of a new PRC resolution regarding accessibility for the Deaf.

“We commend the PRC for their openness to the concerns of the Deaf. We thank PRC Chairperson Manzala for her personal commitment that reforms will be implemented by March 2012,” said Rep. Tinio. #

References:

ACT Teachers Party-List Rep. Antonio L. Tinio (0920-922-0817)

Julie Anne D. Tapit, Media Officer (0915-762-6522)

Repost from the Official Website of Alliance of Concerned Teachers Party.

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