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Families should talk about their mental health conditions and other family health issues when they gather for holidays

Every year since 2004, the U.S. Surgeon General has declared that Thanksgiving is also National Family History Day. Both on Thanksgiving and on other occasions that families gather, Americans should talk about – and write down – the health problems that seem to run in their families. Because knowing about health issues is critical for prevention measures and timely intervention, learning about our families’ health history may help ensure a longer, healthier future together.

At Families for Depression Awareness, we couldn’t agree more! Mental health conditions often run in families, so having greater knowledge of your own family history may provide you with a better understanding of your own mental health. It may also give you a good sense of what to look for in your relatives, including your children, so you can help. Just as significantly, when you communicate openly with your family about mental health, the opportunities for support and stability greatly increase.

Take some time this week to explore your family’s mental health history and open the lines of communication with your loved ones. Here are some practical things you can do:



Photo credit: David Lee, rights reserved

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Survivor Day 2015From Marlin Collingwood

When my husband Gary died by suicide in May 2014, he wrote in his letter to me that he didn’t do this to cause anyone else pain, but to end his own.

But suicide leaves horrible exit wounds for those of us left behind.

The days, weeks, and months after you lose someone you love to suicide are filled with so many emotions: confusion, heartbreak, rage, loneliness, grief, despair, relief – the list goes on and on.

Marlin Collingwood, Families for Depression AwarenessIt’s a club I never thought I’d be a member of and some days it still seems unreal that I’m in it. Unfortunately, it’s a club that’s been around since the beginning of time and whose membership continues to grow everyday.  

I’m talking about the Suicide Loss Survivors club.  

While of course it’s not an actual club, those of us who belong can usually spot each other from afar. Our stories are all unique and different, but the end result is the same: we lost someone we love to suicide and the pain is with us every day.

mental health awareness week 2015One in five adults experience mental health difficulties in a given year. Perhaps you are struggling. There is a high likelihood that you know someone who is.

Having awareness – recognizing and acknowledging your difficulties and your need for help – is one of the most important parts of getting support for mental health issues. Why? Because many mental health issues improve greatly with the right support.

Marlin Collingwood Families for Depression Awareness Hope in ResearchAs summer draws to an official close, kids are back to school and family vacations are memories. Many of us are looking forward to pumpkin spice coffee, changing leaves, and – for those in many parts of the country – crisper, cooler weather.

For those who deal with depression and bipolar disorder, the changing seasons don’t mean a change in their day-to-day struggles. They face the same challenges related to treatment, medication, and coping skills all year and their families continue to look for ways to help them.

suicidepreventiondayAt Families for Depression Awareness, we help families recognize and cope with depression and bipolar disorder to get people well and prevent suicides. There are many actions you can take to help a loved one and to support suicide prevention in your community. We hope that World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10, gives you extra motivation to learn more and take action to help prevent suicides.

Marlin Collingwood Families for Depression AwarenessSince I started as Executive Director in June, I’ve met with hundreds of people that are involved in our work helping families. These have included numerous clinicians and mental health providers; elected officials; families who are currently providing care for a loved one who suffers from bipolar disorder or depression; folks who are themselves struggling to get well from their own condition; suicide loss survivors; teenagers wanting to help other teens understand mental illness by sharing their own stories; and dozens of colleagues in the world of mental health nonprofits.

In talking with nearly every one of these people I’ve come to understand how important community is in all of our lives – especially those of us dealing with depression, bipolar disorder, and suicide.   

newspapers 444449 640We're always keeping our eyes on what's happening in the news pertaining to mental health. Here are some of our favorite articles from this month!

Minority Mental Health MonthJuly is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month! In recognition of that, we wanted to share with you some resources available on the Families for Depression Awareness website that shed light on this important issue.


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If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 800-273-TALK or 911 immediately. For crisis support via text message, text LISTEN to 741741.