May 2, 2019

Let's talk about it

Together we can end the stigma that keeps people silent — and create a culture of acceptance and support for mental health.

“Stigma breeds silence and prevents people from getting support. We want to end the silence,” said Don Mordecai, MD, Kaiser Permanente’s national leader for mental health and wellness.

As part of the effort to end the stigma that keeps people silent — and create a culture of acceptance and support, Kaiser Permanente partnered with StoryCorps, a national oral history project, to record the intimate conversations between people living with mental health conditions and the loved ones who support them. 

Leo was in seventh grade when he started experiencing symptoms of depression. It was subtle at first, and not something he could put his finger on, but everything felt slightly different. Through therapy and medication his depression has improved. He’s happy with his life right now and wants the stigma around mental health to end.

Beth’s depression began when she was a teenager. She felt joy and a zest for life but also deep despair, almost at the same time. After graduating college years later, Beth had panic attacks that felt like heart attacks and sometimes couldn’t get out of bed. She credits therapy for saving her life and wants people to know that they aren’t alone.

Francine first recognized something was wrong when she was 8 years old. At the time, she had no words for what was happening to her — she just knew that something was off. As an adult, Francine was working as a probation officer when a mental health professional she worked with recognized her symptoms and suggested she seek help. Although she has ups and downs, the power of strong friendships has made a difference for Francine.

It wasn’t until Bertha was in her teens that she learned how her mother died. Her mother’s depression and death were never openly discussed in her family until Bertha began asking questions. Although processing her mother’s death was difficult, she knew her story could help others. Bertha now raises awareness about mental health and suicide and works to break down stigma by getting people to talk about it.

Leo, Beth, Francine, and Bertha are not alone. In fact, 1 in 5 people will be affected by mental illness in their lifetime. And many of them struggle for years before reaching out for help, while others never get help at all. Treatment works, but stigma can be a barrier to seeking help.

Let’s change that.

“Our hope is that hearing these stories of people who have successfully managed their mental health issues will help people feel encouraged to talk to a friend or loved one and seek help,” Dr. Mordecai explained.

No one should live in silence. The first step toward getting help is talking about it. There is hope, and there is help.

Visit for suggestions on how to start a conversation, resources and guidance (in both English and Spanish) to support those with depression or other mental health conditions, a depression self-assessment, and more.