Depression has been part of my family for most of my life. I lost both my brother and a dear friend to suicide. I also have clinical depression. Luckily, I am able to live a normal and productive life and I feel that my story can inspire others with my message of hope.
Depression hits every individual and community differently, but in many African-American communities, people are more likely to seek help from non-health care providers, such as friends, family members, or religious leaders. Many times, these people have not had formal training in handling mental health problems. I have also seen how prevalent stigma and myths around depression are in African-American communities, deterring people further from getting help.
After the 2001 suicide of a woman named Melanie Stokes, whose life had a lot in common with my own, I felt the need to take action. Like me, Melanie was married to a physician and had a wonderful and supportive family, including a newborn baby girl. People find it hard to believe when people like us, who have such great lives and families, have problems with depression.
I decided to start a nonprofit organization that is committed to raising awareness about depression, organize support groups, and help do away with the stigma and myths that can cause people to not seek professional help. I have a special focus on working with religious leaders and communities to bring education about depression.
The best advice that I would give to a caregiver is to learn everything they can about the illness, staying abreast of what’s going on in this area of medicine and research. They should join organizations that promote mental health wellness, such as Families for Depression Awareness and Circle of Hope Ministries for Depression Awareness. With some many options and effective treatments available today, there is no reason for people to suffer with this disease.
Vivian Gibson is the founder of Circle of Hope Ministries for Depression Awareness in Mississippi. To get in touch with Vivian to schedule a speaking arrangement or hear her personal story, call her office at (601) 932-5061 or her cell phone at (601) 919-7444.