The sunflowers are planted and growing in our front yard with an iFRED Hope sign prominently displayed. Our lives changed when our 20 year old youngest son, Andrew, succumbed to suicide in 2009, and we were told by too many, “You just can’t stop some people from killing themselves.” This lack of insight by medical leadership and colleagues led to my retirement as an Army Pediatrician and Healthcare Administrator after 23 years and the beginning of my ‘third career’ with a non-profit research and education team of soul-mates – “Serendipity Alliance.” We are “A Voice for the Voiceless…by listening to survivors.” We recognize depression is a normal reaction to a negative experience. The answer is being aware and changing the ‘experience’ before a crisis happens rather than waiting for crises to crop up. Zero suicide is the only answer and IS possible in our lifetimes. One ‘gift’ of Andrew’s passing was meeting Patch Adams again talking to the Wounded Warriors at Walter Reed in 2011. He encouraged me to begin International Community Clowning and the wearing of a red nose in my daily life. My 2012 trip to Russia with Patch to Russian Orphanages, Hospitals, and Senior Centers led to remarkable improvement of my grief, depression, and despair as a suicide survivor dad and combat Veteran with PTSD. This experience has led to collaboration with Gesundheit and the Chicago VA to conduct an all Veteran clowning trip to Guatemala City in October 10-18, 2015 to examine the efficacy of a community service clowning experience to treat effects of PTSD, traumatic brain injury (TBI), chronic depression, and suicidal ideation.
Join us for Global Day of Hope by planting sunflowers on Saturday May 2 in support of the 350 million people living with the treatable disease of depression. The sunflower is the international symbol of hope for depression and Global Day for Hope seeks to amplify our mission to shine a positive light on depression and eliminate the stigma associated with the disease through prevention, research and education.
Plantings will take place all over the world, including Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, Colorado, South America, Nepal, Germany and more! People from all corners of the globe are invited to join the movement by planting sunflowers in their own communities and uniting on social media in an empowering, international symbol of hope.
“People don’t talk about depression and we must change that,” iFred Founder Kathryn Goetzke said. “Depression is treatable and yet because of the stigma associated with it, less than 25 percent of people with diagnosable depression receive treatment. We need to turn the conversation to provide solutions and hope for children and adults who silently suffer from the disease.”
According to a report by the World Health Organization, suicide is a preventable mental health disorder that is treatable. And yet, because it is not significantly addressed, we lose over 800,000 lives annually, it is the second leading cause of death globally for youth ages 15-29, and is estimated to cost the United States alone over 100 billion dollars every year.
“Like so many other treatable medical conditions, support from family, friends and community can make all the difference to an individual fighting for a healthy life,” said Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, psychologist & physical therapist and author of Better than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love. “We can all play a significant role in guiding our friends and loved ones to find and maintain hope by helping to address stress effectively, showing kindness and gratitude to one another and by stopping the unending search for perfection. Hope is a teachable skill and we all have the power to help someone close to us find purpose and positivity in life.”
The Global Day for Hope will be celebrated worldwide with sunflower plantings in communities, homes, public spaces and parks and there are many ways to participate:
- Plant Sunflowers: Plant one, plant a garden, get friends and community involved and celebrate HOPE together.
- Wear Yellow: Yellow is the color of the joy and happiness we feel when depression is successfully treated.
- Share, Share, Share: Post, tweet, or share a photo on social media. Shine your light on hope and use the hashtags #HOPE2015 and #PLANTHOPE and be sure to tag us @ifredorg.
Can you teach children how to have hope?
That is the question we at the International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression (iFred) set out to answer several years ago when we began work developing a new hope curriculum.
According to a recent study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, 1 out of 9 children self-reported a suicide attempt before graduating high school, with forty percent of those children in grade school. That same study found that suicide attempt rates rose steeply at age 12 — around sixth grade — and peaked two to three years later.
We challenged ourselves to devise a way to combat this hopelessness – the primary predictor of suicide and #1 symptom of depression.
Our solution? Schools for Hope, a free educational curriculum to prevent youth suicide by giving ANYONE – parents, students, educators, group leaders – the necessary learning tools and lifesaving skills to find and maintain hope.
Teaching children the importance of caring for their mental health is crucial to their emotional wellbeing and quality of life. The program is designed to give children the tools to handle life’s challenges and empower them to become their most vital selves. As a result of the research pointing towards a rise in suicide attempts among 12-year-olds, the program is designed specifically to reach and equip children with mental health tools prior to challenges that may arise in sixth grade.
Schools for Hope uses a research-based curriculum of lessons, stories and activities to explore the concrete actions a person can take to create his or her own hopeful attitude. The program educates students on the importance of emotional health and wellbeing, how to get their brain into a hopeful state, meditation and deep breathing techniques. It teaches children how to define hope, explore and define the meaning of ‘success,’ and practice emotional self-regulation techniques. In addition, Schools for Hope incorporates lessons about the biology of the brain and how students can connect their passion and purpose in life.
The program is free and available to any interested school, community group, after school program or nonprofit. It comes with comprehensive instructions that make it easily self-led, so the costs associated with implementation are low.
For interest in testing or implementing Schools for Hope, please email email@example.com or visit the website to download the free lesson plans. The site also includes tools and support items for teachers and educators, as well as research on the program and information on how the curriculum fits with current social and emotional learning standards mandated in several states.
What better place to find inspiration and HOPE than from last night’s Academy Awards. While accepting his Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Imitation Game, Graham Moore delivered a moving appeal for those living with depression and/or thinking about suicide. He urged them to seek help, and revealed that he himself once attempted suicide.
Moore said. “Here’s the thing, Alan Turing never got to stand on a stage like this and look out at all of these disconcertingly attractive faces. I do! And that’s the most unfair thing I’ve ever heard. So in this brief time here, what I wanted to do was say this: When I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself because I felt weird and I felt different and I felt like I did not belong. And now I’m standing here, and so I would like this moment to be for this kid out there who feels like she’s weird or she’s different or she doesn’t fit in anywhere. Yes, you do. I promise you do.”
The Imitation Game is based on the life of British mathematician and cryptanalyst Alan Turing, who committed suicide after being prosecuted for being gay in 1954.
On Hollywood’s biggest stage, Moore took a very brave step in sharing a deeply personal story in order to provide HOPE to others. We hope that these words inspired the millions of people around the world who watched the telecast last night and the millions of people around the world who live with depression every day.
He closed his speech by saying, “Stay weird, stay different, and then, when it’s your turn, and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message to the next person who comes along.”
Well Mr. Moore, we’re here to help pass along your message of HOPE.
This content was originally from an interview iFred founder Kathryn Goetzke conducted with Iyanla Vanzant for her book “Peace from Broken Pieces” and has been reedited for this post. Vanzant is the host of “Iyanla: Fix My Life,” the #1 reality show on the OWN network, produced by Harpo Studios. She is an accomplished New York Times bestselling author, inspirational speaker, talk show host and living testament to the value of acting on faith. Iyanla goes deep inside people’s lives for emotionally, riveting conversations where she applies spiritual practices to bring forth inner peace and healing.
A Note from iFred founder Kathryn Goetzke
I found it [the interview] an extraordinarily honest account of human pain and suffering, and the beautiful healing and elasticity of the spirit. Dr. Vanzant’s frankness about situational depression is an inspiration to others, and her ability to bridge the gap between the spiritual and medical community is definitely something all need to hear. I hope you enjoy it as much as I valued speaking to her.
Have you ever personally been affected by depression? Would you share how?
I experienced situational depression when I lost my daughter and also went through a postpartum depression, again situational from the change in hormones after her birth.
How do you define depression?
Depression is a manifestation of the belief, experience, thought, and belief that you are separated from God. This is not to say that there aren’t biological issues to be addressed. There are often imbalances that need medication intervention. We need to get the brain back to equilibrium so it can connect to spirit.
How can we address cultural and societal perceptions of depression?
We need to go to the spiritual leaders and educate them on the biological aspect of depression…as well as women’s groups and organizations. Depression can be both a spiritual emergency AND a medical / physiological issue. If you don’t treat the whole patient, including the imbalances in the brain, it can make it very difficult to heal.
As a spiritual leader, what are your thoughts on medication?
I have no problem with medications to rebalance the brain. You absolutely should get pharmaceutical assistance if your hormones and neurotransmitters are out of balance. When you are thinking with a diseased mind, you have to fix that first.
Any advice for others on getting through depression successfully and finding HOPE?
Along with biological intervention, you need to have a spiritual community. The higher self needs to be involved in the healing. You need community support, friends, and medical doctors.
Culture is critical to healing from depression. You have to be surrounded by people who give you space to breath, and support you in keeping to reality. The women that were around me understood me, and doctors knew I had to bring myself back into alignment. The earth sustained me. Without a cultural support system, you cannot heal.
Could you provide a Message of Hope for those living with depression?
As I say about my own family and friends, “They could not keep me from going down, but they kept me from staying down.”
#GivingTuesday, a global event held each year, inspires us to give back to others and provides a day to show support for the causes that are dear to our hearts. To share our own appreciation, iFred decided to try something new and created a way to “crowd fund” our crowd funding campaign. We have included organizations that we fully support and wanted to share their incredible programs all dedicated to making a difference by helping others through research, providing treatment and services, and education.
We believe that by supporting one another and working together we can create a momentum and have a great impact in the field of mental health and in our own everyday lives.
Every person has the power to make a difference in the life of someone else whether it be a child, a teen, a veteran, or anyone who needs help and support. We are so glad to highlight the amazing work being done by each of them. You may join us in our efforts by sharing and donating to the campaign at Working Together to End the Stigma of Depression.
2014 Campaign Participants
Our mission is to empower teens to fall in love with themselves, communicate more effectively, and make integrity-based decisions.
Motivating the Teen Spirit programs teach teens how to better understand who they are and their full potential. Our workshops produce profound shifts in participants, resulting in more responsible mindsets, attitudes, and behaviors.
IMAlive is the world’s first virtual crisis center. It is the world’s first crisis center where 100% of the volunteers are trained in crisis intervention. In the first year since the launch IMAlive has helped thousands of people in crisis.
The IMAlive Network is currently made possible through the support of the PostSecret community. PostSecret is an ongoing community mail art project, created by Frank Warren, in which people mail their secrets anonymously on a homemade postcard.
Since 1998, The Kristin Brooks Hope Center, founders of 1-800-SUICIDE, have connected more than 7 million calls and chats from people in crisis and are the pioneers behind the IMAlive Network.
The United Nations is in the process of developing the 2015 Post Millennium Development Goals. WE NEED YOUR HELP TO BE SURE MENTAL HEALTH IS INCLUDED. You may join in our efforts within just a few easy steps. Please follow this link to learn more about how you can make an impact on this vitally important global issue and visit Fundamental SDG to be added to the list of supporters. There is no #health without #mentalhealth.
Military Family Lifestyle Charitable Foundation, (MFLCF) provides our military members and their families the dignity and respect owed them by our Nation for their commitment and selfless service in preserving the freedoms we all enjoy. MFLCF accomplishes this task by generating revenue through fundraising events and programs that help support the financial, physical, and emotional needs of military members and their families.
MFLCF also help those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress, by supporting a treatment called Chicago Block (“CB” aka Stellate Ganglion Block). CB is a fast, inexpensive and safe neck injection, which has been FDA approved for decades (for other uses). To date, over 600 patients have been treated around the US, with a greater than 70% success rate. CB is the future of helping those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress.
Schools for Hope is a project developed by iFred targeting 5th grade students designed specifically to teach HOPE. We do this through a research based curriculum of lessons, stories and activities which explore the concrete actions one can take to create their own hopeful attitude.
A recent study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health suggests that 1 in 9 children attempt suicide prior to graduating high school with 40% of those in grade school. Hopelessness is a primary symptom of depression and leading predictor of suicide, making it a threat to students around the world. Brilliant research supports that HOPE is a teachable skill. Help us #teachhope so we can help these students become their most vital and hopeful selves.
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, there will inevitably be a lot of talk about thankfulness and appreciation of life and all they have to offer. Aside from the goodness of gratitude on a personal, social, and at times economic level, rarely do we talk about the healing power of #gratitude. This Thanksgiving and each day forward, let’s focus on thankfulness and gratitude as a tool we can use to help each of us feel better from the inside out.
Living in a world where individuals across cultures are mired with stress from every direction, the very idea of existing with a sound mind and body is fast becoming a distant dream for many. In fact, an estimated 90 percent of all doctor visits are for stress-related aliments and today’s biggest health challenges are cardiovascular disease, mental disorders, cancer, diabetes, and obesity — all conditions that are often linked to living in a state of constant stress (Yakel, 2014).
However, evidence now shows that if we lived each day as though it were Thanksgiving, then, the major causes of stress and imbalance in life would not be allowed to spiral out of our control. Actually, the idea of ‘practicing gratitude’ is gaining traction in the world as an effective means to tackle stress and its negative effects like #depression, #anxiety and others. “Changing worry to gratitude dramatically affects the way our body responds to stress,”Yakel discusses, drawing on a recent research finding.
To further quote Yakel’s article, The Healing Power of Gratitude, he states,“Robert Emmons, Ph.D., and professor at the University of California, Davis, has written the first major scientific study on gratitude, its causes, and potential impact on human health. In his work entitled Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, Dr. Emmons concluded that ‘grateful people experience higher levels of positive emotions such as joy, enthusiasm, love, happiness, and optimism, and the practice of gratitude as a discipline protects a person from the destructive impulses of envy, resentment, greed, and bitterness’.”
Undoubtedly, an ability to morph worry and despair into gratitude will breed #hope as well. Many articles which hone in on the power of gratitude in healing, inform us that focusing on what one has, as opposed to what one doesn’t have, is the key to gratitude. This may indeed also be the key to planting seeds of hope; in essence, it requires one to be able to place focus on the positive over the negative. One of the tools we teach in our Schools for Hope program is the importance of gratitude and how it aids in our mental health. Here are some helpful suggestions and ways a person may develop and express gratitude.
- Writing in a gratitude journal
- Thanking at least one person a day
- Spending one minute a day thinking about and/or listing all of the things in life for which you are thankful.
Of course, each person will have their own way of understanding and practicing gratitude, but it is central to remember that it does have the power to heal and if we can be grateful, then we’re likely to be happier, which means we will naturally be healthier as well. As such, the relevance of gratitude then in cases of #depression and #anxiety also cannot be overlooked. The way in which to addresses these illnesses too is rooted in the perpetuation of a sense of positive energy and #hopefulness. So this Thanksgiving, let’s not just #givethanks, but accept and internalize the healing power of gratitude!
iFred’s recent project, Schools for Hope, launched this fall with fifth graders in the Chicagoland area. The curriculum aims to teach hope to students as a result of the disheartening statistic suggesting that one out of nine students attempt suicide before graduating high school, with forty percent of those being in grade school (Journal of Adolescent Health, 2011).iFred learned that research suggests that hope is a teachable skill and created the program with the intention of instructing each and every ten year old around the world useful tools for finding and maintaining hope.
Hopelessness is the number one symptom of depression and leading predictor to suicide (Association of Physicians, 2004) and suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among 10-24 year olds according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is an issue that must receive our attention and action.
Our society has created a stigma surrounding mental illness and as a result individuals become isolated, feel ashamed, and do not seek treatment. This is no different with our children. It is evident we must educate on the importance of caring for our minds as we do for our bodies, and by doing so, we will encourage new generations to embrace mental health, provide people with the support and care that is currently lacking, and lead individuals to effective treatment.
According to the World Health Organization, prevention programs have been shown to reduce depression including school-based programs focused on enhancing cognitive, problem-solving, and social skills of children and adolescents. The Schools for Hope curriculum is designed to provide children with the tools to always find hope and promote the importance of caring for an individual’s emotional well-being.
It is important and necessary to understand the research, statistics, and learn about what we can do to create change and improve on in mental health education. However, after having the opportunity to observe firsthand the discussions that formulated in the classroom, I must add that the true gift and lesson was also given by the children. Hearing their thoughts, ideas, and insight on the importance of hope, was nothing short of inspiring, heartwarming, and a reminder of the impression we can make on young open minds.
By giving them hope, we empower new generations to enact change for the better. Scholastic agrees, and recently released an article written by teens in their Choices Magazine, educating teens on depression and offering treatment and support options. Editor Eva Rosenfield stated, “The stigma surrounding depression makes people feel like they can’t talk about it openly-or at all. And in turn, these people are not getting the help they need.”
We can make a difference and save lives. Let us listen to the voices of our children and bring them a world where they always have love, support, compassion, and HOPE.
A new article written by Penny Tate
Last week, from the 6th to the 10th of October, I got the opportunity to attend the #GrandChallenges in #globalhealth annual meeting in Seattle. This year’s anniversary event, attended by over 1000 scientists and researchers, celebrated a decade of progress since the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation launched the initiative in 2003. It was exciting to be part of this celebration, especially because, for a change, #mentalhealth was on the agenda—albeit still woefully on the fringe.
Coinciding with the 10th anniversary of #GrandChallenges, a group of international partners announced three new initiatives aimed at creating breakthroughs in science and #innovativesolutions. A consortium of partners including Brazil, Canada, India, Norway, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States will fund a new phase of Grand Challenge initiatives. The three new initiatives announced in Seattle are: 1. All Children Thriving, 2. Putting Women and Girls at the Centre of Development, and 3. Creating New Interventions for Global Health.
In 2002, when Bill Gates first heard about the Grand Challenges in Mathematics to solve complex global issues on mathematics, it sparked something in him to apply the notion of #GrandChallenges to Global Health, with the aim to bring together the world’s most talented scientists and researchers to find solutions to serious health problems in developing countries — ranging from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and neuroscience to maternal and child health. The use of science and technology to #innovatesolutions to the global health crisis has remained at the heart of #GrandChallenges since then. In the span of a decade, the #GrandChallengesmovement is evolving into a leading global platform fostering innovation to solve key global health and development agendas.
The announcement of the new initiative “Putting Women and girls at the Center of Development” by Melinda Gates is evidence that the goals of the #GrandChallenges have transformed over a decade. Addressing the Grand Challenges meeting, Melinda said, “Development needs to be more serious about gender inequities and women’s empowerment. By ignoring gender inequities, many development projects fail to achieve their objective. And when development organizations do not focus on women’s empowerment, they neglect the fact that empowered women have the potential to transform their societies”. According to Gates, if we really want to transform societies, there is no other alternative to women empowerment. This got me thinking about mental health and its role in global development.
Before going to take part in this grand consortium, I was pretty confident that mental health was going to feature predominantly, as a signal that change was in the air, and in the same way that women and girls were being brought to the centre, so would mental health. I envisioned a consortium where mental health was a leading public health and development challenge for the world’s best minds to recognize and work hard to solve this challenge in tandem with other health and development issues. However, the reality was quite the opposite. In fact, the ignorance of mental health in the #GrandChallenges consortium undermines its own central mission, which is to improve lives and spread #hope in developing countries. The reality is that mental illness kills more people globally than heart disease. Suicide is a leading cause of death among women of a reproductive age in the developing world. The World Health Organisation has already established that one-third of the global population suffers from a mental health problem. But even as this is the case, it is puzzling to see mental health not included as a “grand challenge” in health.
It would, nonetheless, be unjust to claim that all partners of the Grand Challenges have overlooked this global challenge. The Global Mental Health initiative of Grand Challenges Canada has continuously championed the issue on the international platform as a #lonelywarrior. While announcing the new Grand Challenges Canada initiatives at the #Grand Challenge meeting, the Chief Executive Officer of the GCC, Peter A. Singer reaffirmed its commitment to continue support to find #innovativesolutions in #globalmentalhealth. The growing #globalmentalhealth scientific and civil society community cheered Dr. Singer’s announcement. While it is already urgently necessary for #globalmentalhealth to be recognized as a priority development agenda across the #grandchallenges consortium, there is #hope that the coming years will bear good news. In the same way that the role of women and girls has slowly been recognized as a core issue in development, I am sure that sometime in the not-to-distant future, we will be hearing Melinda Gates talking about the core role that mental health plays in global development as well.
A new article written by: Jagannath Lamichhane
If ever there was a need for innovation in mental health, it is now. Perhaps that is why we see growing global commitment to develop, evaluate, and scale up promotion, prevention and treatment innovations for mental disorders around the world. Under that premise, the idea of #communitycare in mental health is also gaining momentum. After centuries of the institutionalization of those who suffer from mental health problems, #communitycare in mental health is a refreshing change in the right direction, based on the notion that mental health problems can be dealt with at the community level. In fact, in many ways, the work that iFred does, with projects such as Schools for Hope and Fields for Hope, are also based on the fundamental belief of #communitycare in mental health.
A few months ago, at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine with support from the Grand Challenge Canada, the Mental Health Innovation Network was created comprising of a global community of mental health innovators: researchers, practitioners, policy-makers, service user advocates. The central aim of this network is to share innovative resources and ideas to promote mental health and improve the lives of people with mental, neurological and substance use disorders. Fundamentally, the network promotes the idea of #communitycare interventions by enabling learning, building partnerships, synthesizing and disseminating knowledge and crucially, by leveraging resources. There are other major initiatives as well like Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health, the World Innovation Summit on Health 2013 (WISH) and the Movement for Global Mental Health which champion the idea of the #communitycare model of intervention.
In February this year, an article appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, called Transforming Lives, Enhancing Communities – Innovations in Global Mental Health, which highlights not only the need for innovation in global mental health at the community level, but the potential that exists for #collaborativecare and #communitymentalhealth. The article highlights that “despite the robust evidence testifying to the effectiveness of a range of pharmacologic, psychological, and social interventions that can transform lives and enhance communities, the majority of the world’s population has no access to these interventions.” Further, the authors, Vikram Patel and Shekhar Saxena, show that the human rights abuses faced by those who suffer from mental health problems are the worst of modern times. Yet the resource allocation for global mental health remains staggeringly low.
They point to new and innovative measures to tackle the global mental health crisis, in which community care is at the heart of all interventions. In fact, through the Mental Health Innovation Network, these up and coming innovative interventions which can be scaled-up, are being chronicled and discussed and made available for public access. Among some of these innovative interventions, we see the appearance of prevention programs targeted toward youth such as iFred’s Schools for Hope program.
According to the authors of a report drafted (upon which the article is based) in the wake of the World Innovation Summit on Health, on mental health, “at the heart of these innovations lies the health care delivery model of integrated collaborative care. Collaborative care must incorporate an active role for patients and their families and must integrate mental health care with social and economic interventions.”
The authors go on to argue that such care models must focus on the detection and treatment of mental disorders as early in the course of life as possible, since most mental disorders begin before adulthood. They say that “mental health care should be delivered in diverse settings; indeed, most care would be expected to occur outside traditional specialist delivery venues — for instance, in schools, primary health care facilities, the workplace, and patients’ homes.” This is why the focus on #communitymentalhealth is so vital, and also a wonderful example of the importance of iFred’s work in implementing innovative measures to tackle what is a truly global crisis.
A new blog written by Bidushi Dhungel