Bringing depression into the light

Depression and bipolar disorder are treatable medical conditions that affect more than 21 million American adults in any given year. Depression and bipolar disorder often recur in families, within and across generations. In fact, more than two-thirds of people with depression or bipolar disorder have at least one close relative with one of these mental health conditions.

In addition to having a potentially severe impact on a person's life and relationships, depression or bipolar disorder are involved in most suicides. Knowing of other instances of depression or bipolar disorder in other family members, or experiences that might indicate depression or bipolar disorder, and knowing about signs and symptoms of these disorders, can help family caregivers to be attuned to changes in mood and behavior that might indicate a mental health condition.

Mental Health Family Tree: Before You Begin

What are depression and bipolar disorder?

Depression and bipolar disorder are mental health conditions that affect mood, behavior, and functioning. Learn more about depression, bipolar disorder, and the role of a family caregiver through articles, webinars, fact sheets, and more on

Why should I use this tool?

A person's family mental health history can provide clues that help families and healthcare providers recognize potential mental health issues. Knowing about family experience with depression and bipolar disorder can also increase awareness so these conditions may be recognized and treated early.

Will the tool keep my information? Can I update it?

The Mental Health Family Tree tool allows you to create an account and reopen your file to add to or correct the information. Families for Depression Awareness does not have access to your account or your login information, so please make a note of your identifying number and password somewhere that you can get it when you want to use your Mental Health Family Tree account. Because Families for Depression Awareness does not maintain a record of your account login, if you misplace this information, you will need to start over.

What will Families for Depression Awareness do with my mental health history?

Families for Depression Awareness does not ask for your name and contact information so any information you enter is not personally identifiable. Even if you set up an account, you will have a unique identifier that does not include your name. FFDA is interested primarily in the demographic information (age, gender, ethnicity, and race) you complete at the beginning of the tool to help us continue to evaluate and improve our programs, tools, and educational content. FFDA may access aggregated data but it is not connected to you as an identifiable person.

What should I do before I start?

Gather information about the (blood) relatives of the person you are completing the Mental Health Family Tree for (yourself or another person), including mental health history (such as diagnoses, treatment), life experiences (such as divorce, legal problems, homelessness), and mood and behaviors (such as noticeable anger or irritability, persistent sadness, misuse of drugs or alcohol). Ask questions of others in your (or their, if completing for someone else) family. People might not know about mental health diagnoses, but they might know of Grandpa's angry streak, or when Aunt Mary would go on a shopping spree, or Uncle Joe's problems with the law. Keep conversations going with relatives so you can fill out the Tree even more.