NPR Story Spotlights Depression Stigma within Families

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Mary, a depression sufferer (and Families For Depression Awareness volunteer), indicated her siblings teased her when she began experiencing unremitting sadness, wanting to be alone and crying all the time. They called her crybaby.

The August podcast on NPR's, Your Health Today, where this family situation was described, featured Julie Totten, President of Families for Depression Awareness (FFDA) and Dr. William Beardslee, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

When Mary began searching for answers to her own depression at age of 32, she discovered depression ran in her family. In fact, it turned out that some of the same siblings who teased her also experienced depressive disorders.

The big stumbling block to getting help is stigma. "People don't really talk about it enough," said Totten on the program. "You don't say to your neighbor, 'my brother is really depressed.'"

According to Dr, Beardslee, untreated depression can be a "family calamity."

Family involvement and knowledge is crucial in treating depression but "It's not something that medical professionals often talk about as an option," Totten said. "That's how our medical system is set up, to treat the patient and not the family."

Another stumbling block is getting the patient to accept help. "Expect them to say no," said Totten.

She knows from experience how tough it is. Her own brother had depression and Julie tried to get him help. He eventually took his own life.

Empathetic and effective resources exist at Families for Depression Awareness to help lessen the stigma and encourage family treatment for depression.

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