When someone suffers from depression, the effects ripple out to those they love. I can still remember the moment. As I was getting ready for an upcoming weekend visit to see my dad, I called to see how he was doing. I knew something was terribly wrong when I heard a voice that wasn't his. My mother took the receiver and told me the news that would forever change my life. My dad had taken his life.
My father was a successful businessman, but his pain was no mystery to me. He had resisted treatment because he did not want to admit to weakness in character. I cannot accurately describe in words the deep sense of abandonment, betrayal and total loss of self I felt when he died. I believe that had he sought help earlier, he might well still be alive today.
Just weeks before he died, he sent me a Valentine's Day card telling me how much he loved me. How he hoped I would never have to deal with the pain, deep regret and unhappiness he felt all the time. I carry the card with me as a reminder of his pain. It serves as my fuel to change the world for the better as a way to honor his life.
Depression is treatable, yet less than half of those with depression worldwide are receiving treatment, due in part to the stigma associated with the disease. This misunderstanding about depression is what prevented my father from getting treatment. As a branding expert, I know that by doing the following we can and will end the stigma of depression.
- Use a universal symbol, the sunflower, around the world showcasing just how many are working for positive progress.
- Engage celebrities, politicians, business leaders and activists to talk about their own depression.
- Bring awareness of the biology of depression, and how our neurotransmitters, hormones, and brain chemistry are affected by everything we put in our body.
- Focus on hope for those suffering from depression, instead of the negative depictions of depressed people that are often present in the media.
It is in this light I bring you "Field of Hope." This global campaign asks people to come together and pledge to plant a sunflower to show honor and respect for the 350 million people around the world who live with depression. They need our help.
My dad had it all and did not deserve or need to die. Do not let one more life be wasted.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.