April 7, 2017

Why talking about depression is a radical act

To bring depression out of the shadows, we just need to talk about it.

Depression is a topic that remains shrouded in silence, yet it's a condition that has touched millions of people. One in five adults experience mental health issues in a given year. One in five youth experience a severe mental health condition at some point during childhood or adolescence.

Still, over the last century, depression has been one of the great unmentionables. But there is hope. To bring depression out of the shadows, we just need to talk about it.

That’s where 2 complementary public health awareness campaigns come in — the first by the World Health Organization and the other by Kaiser Permanente. The WHO’s “Depression: Let’s Talk,” and Kaiser Permanente’s “Find Your Words,” focus on addressing and reducing stigma through conversation and dialogue.

To further break the silence around mental health and wellness, WHO has focused today’s World Health Day on depression. Each year, the organization mobilizes action around a specific health issue of concern to people worldwide.

“Depression doesn’t discriminate. It’s a serious mental health condition that affects people all across the globe, of all ages and from all walks of life,” said Mary Giliberti, CEO at National Alliance on Mental Illness. “But there is hope, and it can be effectively treated. Talking with people you trust can be a good first step. By reducing the stigma associated with depression, we can make it easier for people to reach out for help when they need it.”

The number of people with depression and anxiety is increasing - 615 million in 2013

Let’s talk

At the core of the WHO’s “Let’s Talk” campaign is the importance of talking about depression as a vital component of recovery. Talking about depression, whether with family and friends or a medical professional, at school or in the workplace, or in the news or social media, helps break down the stigma. And breaking down the stigma ultimately leads to more people seeking help.

“A better understanding of depression and how it can be treated, while essential, is just the beginning," said Shekhar Saxena, MD, director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO. "What needs to follow is sustained scale-up of mental health services accessible to everyone, even the most remote populations in the world.”

Find your words

With its “Find Your Words” campaign, Kaiser Permanente uses an inspired public health awareness ad featuring lyrics that talk about depression in an honest and unexpected way. The spots drive viewers to FindYourWords.org, a website that provides basic information about depression, connects people with resources, and invites the public to engage in a conversation about mental health and wellness.

As part of its efforts to tackle stigma, Kaiser Permanente has teamed up with other organizations focused on mental health and wellness, partnering with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Crisis Text Line and Mental Health America, to change the conversation about mental illness.

Total health: Mind, body, spirit

Mental health and wellness covers everything from helping people cope with day-to-day challenges of life, to treating mental health conditions, substance use disorders and other addictions. The organization is committed to leading the nation through proactive, evidence-based approaches to prevention, diagnosis and treatment – while also raising public awareness of the stigma around mental health, and the direct relationship between physical and mental health issues.

“We need to treat the whole person,” said Don Mordecai, MD, national leader for Mental Health and Wellness at Kaiser Permanente. “Depression changes the way the brain works just as diabetes can change the way the pancreas works. It needs to be understood as a condition like any other. But to do that, we need it to be part of the national conversation on health and health care.

“It’s important to acknowledge that access to high-quality mental health care for those who need it is a real issue across the United States today,” added Mordecai. “As physicians and therapists, it’s essential that we initiate the conversation with our patients, assure them that treatment works, and make sure they know there is no need to try and cope with depression alone. Help is available.”

Over the coming months, Kaiser Permanente will debut a variety of content focused on mental health and wellness, including different aspects of depression. Videos, audio podcasts and infographics aimed at helping people better understand the experience of depression will be shared on the organization’s websites and social media channels.


For more information, check out the official site for World Health Day. For more on depression, visit NAMI’s site on the topic. Learn more about Find Your Words at findyourwords.org.