“Four simple words…I suffer from depression”

I recently came across this video of Kevin Breel speaking to a group of people at a recent TED-X conference and was blown away by his poignant account of what it’s been like living with depression and his hopes for a future without stigma.

As you may remember from my earlier posts, I lost my father when I was Kevin’s age to suicide and I consider myself a depression survivor. It is through the sharing of these stories and personal accounts that I believe we will be able to shine a light of HOPE for the 350 million worldwide living with depression.

I hope you’ll take 11 minutes to watch this video of Kevin. If you live with depression, someone in your life lives with depression, or you don’t think you know anyone living with depression – you need to watch this video. It will be well worth your time.

Watch Kevin’s video here: http://www.causes.com/causes/101854/updates/793004

 

 

Stories from the Field

Americans across the country are getting ready to celebrate the 4th of July holiday tomorrow, a holiday all about the human spirit and a renewal of #HOPE. So it seemed like a fitting time to bring you our first Story from the Field, stories about the people we have had the honor and privilege to meet through the Field for Hope campaign. These narratives, pictures and videos are our way of helping spark positive conversations around depression and mental health in order to help chip away at the negative stigma surrounding the disease.

Earlier this year we met Tim Kahlor at the PRISM Awards in Los Angeles, an annual awards show that honors TV, movie, music, DVD and comic book entertainment that accurately depict mental health issues. Tim’s son Ryan is a military veteran who lives with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). We asked Tim to share his incredible story with us to help kick off our Stories from the Field series.

Contributed by Tim Kahlor

Ryan joined the military in 2002 when he was 18-years-old on a delayed entry program so he could get his braces off his teeth before basic training. He was promised a $12,000 sign-on bonus and told he would be stationed in Germany. We’d sent him to Europe when he was in high school and he loved it. Ryan was always an adventurous kid and loved playing sports; the thought of being paid to keep in shape was his dream job. The military offered him adventure, the ability to work out and stay in shape, all while seeing the world.

Photo of Ryan Kahlor and his rescued shelter cat taken by Hannah Kahlor.

Photo of Ryan Kahlor and his rescued shelter cat taken by Hannah Kahlor.

He left for basic training on March 18, 2003, the day before the war in Iraq started. Ryan was a member of the 1st Armored Division based out of Baumholder, Germany, and was being sent to Holenfeld, Germany, to a non-deployable unit. However when they offered him rank quicker and no tax on his combat pay if he went to Iraq, he accepted the offer. In 2003 Ryan served as an Infantryman in Bagdad, guarding the green zone and then was later sent out on missions in other areas. There was a lot of action, but it was the next deployment that caused the most damage to Ryan. When we saw him next in 2004 he was friendly, but guarded.   

Ryan was married in December of 2005 and deployed to Iraq again in January 2006. That November Ryan endured many struggles, as he was involved in several horrible firefights leaving him to handle many of the dead and wounded. During his two deployments Ryan received repeated injuries to his head and body, including a Traumatic Brain Injury. When he returned to the U.S. they finally sent him to Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego to be part of the Wounded Warrior Project for Army members who are injured in combat. There, Ryan’s PTSD really began to erupt, resulting in fighting and explosive yelling. One day I found him rolled up in a ball in the middle of the living room. Ryan was sent to Palo Alto’s in-patient program for PTSD at the VA hospital there. Which I believe, to this day, is still the best program I’ve seen Ryan come out of since 2007 for dealing with PTSD.  

When your child is killed in combat the pain of war is over for the soldier or marine, but continues on for their family. When your child lives through combat and comes home with PTSD the mental war of combat is brought from the battlefield into the living room, kitchen, bedroom and to the surrounding community. Ryan was the poster child in 2007 and 2008 for getting and responding to PTSD treatment, but there are always going to be relapses no matter how well treatment has served in addressing the problem. That is the hardest part to get through; the rough times that disillude the thought that the struggle is over after everything seems to be going so well. My family has found that being willing to listen to him when he wants to talk about it and always letting him know I am there for him is one of the most helpful things we can do. I don’t ask questions unless he opens a door that will allow me to ask a questions. There are people that think you can “shake it out of them” or “tell them some story about a cousin, uncle or buddy they knew that was in combat” or the guy that says “you got to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and get on with your life” (my response to that one is ‘what if the boot straps are already broken?’)  Then you have the people who want you to explain why there is more PTSD now than in past wars. I ignore things like the above and celebrate Ryan’s success; I often text him about how proud I am of what he is doing.  

Ryan just finished a semester of college with great grades and we celebrated it as a family going out to dinner. This is major because in the past he couldn’t sit in a classroom long enough to finish a semester. We set goals and plans for future outings together that I know Ryan enjoys. Last summer, Ryan and his wife Hannah took me to Yosemite camping and it was like heaven for us all. I saw the joy in my son’s face taking me someplace that I loved and he loved it too. This year we already have a trip planned at the Kern River and Yosemite hiking the whole time and playing in the river. Ryan teaches surfing and kayaking to wounded warriors during the summer, so we encourage him to keep doing that when he can as well as cycling.  

It is so important that families don’t forget to find time to get help for themselves and the knowledge to help a loved one suffering from PTSD. They should always be aware of signs of isolation and frustration to be readily to supportive. Families dealing with a loved one with PTSD should remember that there will be good days and bad days, and you have to hope that the good days get longer and the bad days get shorter.

Tim’s story exhibits one main and powerful fact: being open and honest about the reality of PTSD can enable our sons, daughters, fathers, brothers, sisters, mothers, and friends to hold their heads up high, walk around unashamed and seek treatment in spite of the stigma. This example further promotes the belief that above all we must love, care, support and advocate on behalf of our loved ones living with conditions like PTSD and depression. Liberate yourself and your loved ones by taking a stand and joining us in the cause to end the negative stigma associated with the disease. Speak out, volunteer, contribute and help us build a community. Take the Pledge to Plant, spread the word and join iFred in honoring the 350 million around the world living with depression.

In this light, I bring you Field for Hope

Kathryn Goetzke, iFred founder

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 25% of those with depression are getting treatment in part because of 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.

1. Use a universal symbol, the sunflower, around the world showcasing just how many are working for positive progress.

2. Engage celebrities, politicians, business leaders and activists to talk about their own depression

3.  Bring awareness of the biology of depression, and how our neurotransmitters, hormones, and brain chemistry are affected by everything we put in our body.

4. 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 for 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. Pledge to Plant. Join our movement today at Causes.com/FieldforHope or visit www.ifred.org to find out how you can get help for yourself or someone you love.

Fantastic Q&A on Exercise and Depression

Our wonderful advisory board member, Kirsten Straughan, was kind enough to let iFred present to the students in UIC’s Human Nutrition program, preparing students to become registered dieticians.  Students interested in volunteering and learning more about depression took up the topics of exercise, nutrition, and the brain, and we are so thankful that Ann Haibeck researched and compiled these common questions and answers about depression and exercise.  THANK YOU and keep up the great work! 

General clinical depression 

Why should I consider exercise as a way to alleviate depressive symptoms? How does exercise help? 

Exercise provides a distraction or “time out” from the stresses of daily living. Most people also feel a sense of accomplishment, self-esteem, and increased self-efficacy as a result of exercise. 

[Read more...]

Profound Inspiration Called The Invitation, Written by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Oriah Mountain DreamerI just absolutely love this.  If iFred was successful, each and every person would feel like this.  Read, observe how you feel, enjoy, and read again.  Share with a friend. 

That may or may not be a sunflower, but it certainly looks like one.  How very appropriate.

Sending love out to you all.

xoxo

The Invitation by Oriah
It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

[Read more...]

Have you ever felt like a non photo-shopped flower? Time to view yourself through a different lens.

Flowers with FANTASTIC flaws!

I was taking some photos of flowers this weekend, and I noticed they weren’t perfect.  Flakes of dirt, worn around the edges, some black spots, browning, all kinds of things when you really get up close.  I really didn’t care and was so glad I saw the beauty, not the flaws, and it made me think a lot about life.

Don’t you wish for even a day we could see the beautiful flower within ourself?  No flaws, no rough edges, nothing to pick at because what we saw was really the amazing, colorful, unique image that sat before us?  That we weren’t put under a microscope, taken apart, criticized and belittled by what really makes us beautiful and unique?

So I decided to take lots of photos, bring them back and expose their flaws close-up.  But I challenge you to look at these flaws and find the awe and beauty in each of them.  Instead of automatically doing what you have been taught and point out / take apart those flaws, study them closely and see how they add beauty, depth, and character to each and every flower.

These aren’t photo-shopped in any way, which is why I love them.  They are what they are.  The majority of the flower is vibrant, colorful, smells and feels beautiful.

Spend a day seeing yourself as you see a flower.  Strong, confident, delicate, amazing, magnificent….  Notice the beauty and be inspired by that.  Hang un-photoshopped flowers on your wall as a reminder that we are all perfect in our own, unique, and beautiful way.

xoxo

Kathryn

The Shocking Truth of America’s Influence on Liberia and a Proposal to Heal

Shocking is an understatement.  Here are the things people in the world agree on in regards to Liberia:
  • It was colonized in 1821-1822 by freed American Slaves.
  • These slaves formed an elite group in society, and in 1847 formed an elite group named the Republic of Liberia.
  • In 1989 the first Civil War in Liberia broke out, and in 1999 the second Civil War in Liberia broke out.  These have been named the bloodiest, most gruesome wars in history.
  • In 2003, The Economist named Liberia “The World’s Worst Place to Live”.

You may say, so what?  But let us take a moment to remember what we have put out of our memory due to the horrific nature of our ancestor’s behavior.  How we, Americans, treated those slaves according to the editors of the CD oral history project called Remembering Slavery: African-Americans Talk About Their Personal Experiences of Slavery and Emancipation:  

“Some slave women were used for breeding more slaves. Plantation owners would rape female slaves in order to produce more slaves. Some slaves were even forced to have sex with others to increase population and increase the amount of slave product on the market.”     

[Read more...]

Field of Hope

The Field of Hope this year has been one adventure after another. It is amazing it was brought to bloom and rather ironic as well. There were adventures along the way, challenges, obstacles, yet here we sit with the flowers in full bloom.
What is most ironic to me is as the flowers are blooming, I am losing one of the most important people that have ever come into my life, Paul. Paul is on the advisory board of iFred and is one of those people that just epitomizes a good person – and everything a person should commit to be. He doesn’t drink, smoke, has solid faith, exercises, is genuinely kind, does not judge and loves with all his heart. He is the kind of person I think everyone should aspire to be. So to me in many ways this blooming is bittersweet as he was a big reason the field was able to happen.
I’ve been writing a poem about who he and what he meant to me and everyone else to help express my love for this great man and ease my pain. But the reality is nothing hurts more than the loss of a dear friend, a major life event and one that is known to trigger depressive episodes. There are three things that make you susceptible to depression / trigger an episode; abuse in childhood, genetics, and traumatic life events (death of a loved one being on top).

So with my history of depression, while I am happy of the blooming I must think of how I will cope. So I am working to feel and experience the pain and loss, as opposed to escaping, as while escaping might be nice in the short term I know through in the long term it will only hurt me. And I will use my creativity to bring forth beautiful things to express my feelings – art, poetry, music, song, and love. I am recognizing my vulnerability and making sure to eat well, sleep, exercise, pray, surround myself with those I love and be good to myself. And I will keep Paul and his family close to my heart and rejoice in what the field is bringing to others.

Dan Taylor managed the field, and we couldn’t have been luckier, as he is the one that made sure it came to fruition as there were many times along the way it was questionable. We had major issues first with flood, which pretty much never happens in Accra (figures!). Dan was there through the night when the flood came and helped drain the field after and salvaged the flowers he could. He managed to get additional flowers donated to cover the ones we lost, and got donations of fertilizer to make sure the ones that made it actually survived.

When we ran out of money for the project he continued to support it and see it through to the end. He did not give up. He gave his own time and money as he believed it was a field and project much greater than him, symbolic that we should not give up in times of despair no matter what road blocks may lie ahead. Something that anyone experiencing depression always needs to remember.
The field brought together so many in Accra, so many that would not have otherwise spoken of depression or mental illness. The Field of Hope was non controversial – a beautiful project and intrigued people enough to discuss it. And once they found out what it was for, it seemed many had stories to tell. They slipped in the night to help how they could, donating items – a miracle in and of itself.
In Accra, Ghana and throughout Africa I learned that people with any type of mental issue – they are treated as if they have ‘demonic spirits’ in them. That is what most believe there. The individuals are chained to trees and made to fast in the hot sun – so as to rid them of these so called ‘spirits’ – stripped of rights and subjected to mental, physical and sexual abuse.

Why everyone can not accept that problems with the brain are no different than problems with the heart, lung, or kidney is completely baffling. Depression is a treatable disease, yet people are needlessly suffering and dying because it is feared. Even in the U.S. – we just recently established Mental Health Parity laws – laws that basically say that people with mental issues should be given the same treatment as those with physical issues (while of course we have to start somewhere, is it really true progress?).

People in the mental health field are very excited about that, and while it is a good thing I wonder how it is possible that so much money, time and effort was spent making this happen when we could have used it treating those effected. The brain is not a ‘special organ’ detached from the rest of our body, in fact it is the most complex organ in the human body and it connects and influences everything we do – it would seem a no-brainer that we treat it as the gem that it is and do all we can to keep it healthy. Just getting the brain now included in our insurance plans seems archaic to me, again I am glad it happened just wish we were further along.

As I look back at the first photo of the field, I reflect on how much it looks and feels like depression in many ways. Muddy, dirty, blah, unattractive, stagnant, colorless (well, brown), sick, unworthy…. those are some things that come to mind. And then I think about all of the issues with the field but saw how people continued watering it, allowing sunlight, and providing nutrients, nurture, faith, and commitment.

And I look at where we ended – a beautiful, proud, yellow, joyful upright sunflower facing the sun. They even look proud to me. Just as someone might look if they had managed their depression successfully after a hard stretch. For those who don’t know – it is such an amazing sight to see.

The World Health Organization estimates that by 2030 depression is going to be the #1 cause of death and disability worldwide – and do you know why? Because people are afraid of acknowledging it. It amazes me each and every day that depression is up to 80% treatable, yet less than 25% are getting treatment in the U.S. alone (2% in Ghana) due to stigma and lack of funding (most likely due to stigma).

We could prevent so many problems if we paid attention and showed acceptance. Why we don’t, in the 21st century, I just can not understand. But maybe, just maybe, by reading this you will see someone with depression differently in the future – you will understand they may be dark and murky, but with love, nurturing, nutrients, sunshine and care they will come out of it brighter than ever. You will give them love and hope and support and encouragement through their dark times.

To all of those that worked tirelessly on the Field this year thank you. We are planting a seed towards acceptance and while it may not be understood now I have faith it will in the years to come. And I want to especially thank Paul and his family for their constant support for something that they may not fully understand or personally experience, but continue to encourage with an open heart and mind.