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All of us at Project Helping intimately understand the stigma of depression and all mental health issues. We understand because we have all struggled with depression and depression-related illness and we have all felt the crushing burden of the stigma of depression. In turn, we understand the importance of working towards ending the associated stigma.
The stigma of depression and mental health stigma is the primary reason that 80% of people suffering with mental health issues do not speak up and do not seek help. Forty million people in the United States suffer from depression. That means that approximately 25 million people suffer from depression in complete silence. In turn, this is the reason that approximately 40,000 people per year attempt suicide.
For those living with depression or other mental health issues in silence, they likely fear many possible repercussions:
It is estimated that depression causes the most additional health issues of any disease. Depression is financially the most costly disease in the world due to the fact that is causes other health issues and often goes untreated. Unlike the emotional experiences of sadness, loss and passing mood states, clinical depression is persistent and can significantly interfere with someone’s ability to function. Many people still believe that the prolonged and overwhelming symptoms of depression are “not real” or that the person should “try harder” and “just get over it,” which perpetuates the stigma of depression and mental health issues.
When someone chooses not to speak up because of the fear and shame of the stigma of depression, it can impact their life and health in many ways:
We believe in a two-pronged approach to combatting the stigma of depression and mental health issues. Depression and mental health issues need to be humanized. This does not happen by quoting endless statistics. While the statistics are important, it is the stories of the people living with mental wellness issues that will compel others to speak up and seek help. Stating that 1 in 10 people lives with depression is proven less effective than telling the story of that one person and the things that have worked for them in treating their illness.
Another immensely important factor in stigma is self-stigma.
If the person living with depression or another mental health issues feel that they are not worthy of help or that they have no value, they are not likely to speak up and seek the help they need. Unfortunately, the symptoms of depression often force a person to carry these very thoughts about themselves. We believe self-stigma is the root cause in much of the perceived stigma surrounding mental health issues and depression.
At Project Helping, we use group volunteering to combat both of these issues. By volunteering, we not only leverage the amazing health benefits of volunteering, but we also humanize mental health issues. We share with the world all the great things people living with depression and mental health issues are doing to give back to their community and we allow people seeking to improve their mental health to witness their peers doing amazing things to give back.
One of the most beneficial things about volunteering is it is proven to improve one’s self image and mood. This improvement reduces the self-stigma one may be carrying about struggling with their mental wellness. By reducing any existing self-stigma, people are much more likely to seek additional help, if needed, for their mental health.