What Will It Take to Make Depression a “Good Cause”?


2305701220_0fc3d01183_bOnce a year or so I’m tempted to shave my head like I’m going through chemo to make my depression visible to others. I’m thinking if I pulled a Sinead O’Connor, people would take the illness seriously.

I saw a commercial the other day for some leukemia association, and I was jealous.

I know that’s not the response the advertising team was looking for. But, as someone who is now responsible for fundraising for a foundation for treatment-resistant depression and chronic mood disorders, I thought about how much easier my job would be if the people for whom I’m raising the money actually looked sick.

I have no problem getting dough for Catholic Relief Service’s Operation Rice Bowl that feeds poor kids in Africa. The paper carton which you load with dollars and cents dons the photo of a beautiful African child with the message: “$1 a day for 40 days of Lent means one month of food for a family, two years of seed for a farmer, and three months of clean water for four families.” For other relief projects, you see the folks with bony arms and legs, extended stomachs, and white, crooked teeth that contrast their dark skin. Who wouldn’t fork over cash to them?

However, asking for dough for depression is a whole other story. I may as well be asking to save the mosquitos. At some level, I believe stigma exists in each and every one of us. We think the person who can’t get upright in the morning is too lazy, stupid, or addicted. Their condition is their fault. If it’s your sister who can’t keep a job because of her mood disorder, she isn’t trying hard enough and she won’t do yoga. If it’s your neighbor who has been depressed her whole life, she wants to be depressed on some level: she is unwilling to move beyond her baggage and do the hard work of recovery. Depression is a white and blue-collar disease that is invisible to the public, and therefore it’s not real. Everyone who suffers from it has contracted it by their lack of discipline and good sense, their negativity and stubbornness.

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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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7 Responses
  1. Jeff Duggan

    Why not sell wrist bands for $5 or $10 each that can show support for your project as well as be a focal point for people with mental illnesses. We don’t have to shave our heads or wear insulin pumps but we can show support in other ways. If you remember, I wear a bracelet every day just to keep me balanced and aware of my illness. Many in my family and friends circle know what the bracelet stands for. I even encourage them to “flip it” as a reminder if they see me start to slip into darkness.
    I would be happy to help if you and your team think this idea might work.
    Stay Strong,
    Jeff Duggan

    1. Wanda Pranke

      I think that is a great ideal. iFred.org has depression awareness pins that represent the “sunflower” as their symbol. I bought and gave them to family members and friends and we wear them proudly.

  2. Amma

    Depression & estrangement are both connected. I spoke to my OBGYN & she said ” every second person who comes through my door wants me to prescribe anti depressant or sleeping pils.”She said what is scarry pregnant women are wanting it & complain they can’t sleep.

  3. Therese, count me in for a “shave your head” campaign or photo collage. Maybe a before and after?

    You’ve probably thought of this, but maybe the Foundation could sell t-shirts, hats, kerchiefs, calendars, planners, or other items, with positive references to mood disorders, hidden illnesses, inspirational quotes, or such.

    TRIGGER ALERT: For example, we have a couple of drink coasters that are in the OPPOSITE vein, but often generate some interesting comments by guests. Maybe you’ve seen them, or the like. One has a picture of a smiling normal-looking woman and says: “I hate being bipolar. It’s awesome!” The other pictures a frowning young child, seated on a tricycle, saying, “I’m an emotional drinker … and you are seriously stressing me out.”

    I’m not suggesting those kind of slogans, but there may be phrase(s) or quote(s), combined with the beautiful and impressive BBFoundation logo and slogan, that PBB members, GBB warriors, and others would support.

  4. Kristen McDermott

    I can relate to your frustration and bewilderment. Mental illness runs rampant in my well-to-do family. When I was 12-years old my grandfather committed suicide. Since the age of 16, I have been struggling with severe depression. I am very open about my illness and have been in treatment for the past 20 years. My wealthy parents donate tons of money to different charities. However, not $1 goes toward a cause which has and continues to affect my family so profoundly. Next time I see my father, I am going to tell him that I so admire his generosity to XYZ charities, causes, etc., but I was just curious why he has never chosen a mental health related one. I will be sure to share his answer with you.

    Please know that your work does matter. It has made a big difference in my life. Please don’t be discouraged.

  5. Wanda Pranke

    Again, I totally agree. I have been hospitalized several times for my depression in the hospital I work at. I hear snide comments about ” the psych” unit and it irritates me so very much! I received a call from marketing at our hospital to ask if they could use my story in their brochures. I of course said, yes. I told them I would be their “poster child” if they wanted. I am not afraid to tell people about my depression, the ECT treatments, countless meds and other treatments. I just wish I could raise my hand in this world and say, Hey! We suffer everyday, not by our choice but because of this DISEASE!

    Wanda Pranke