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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Department of Health and Human Services
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

Last Updated: 6/22/2012

SAMHSA’s Resource Center to Promote Acceptance,
Dignity and Social Inclusion Associated with
Mental Health (ADS Center)


Family Profiles - Families for Depression Awareness
Waltham, Massachusetts

Start Date

Brief Description
The Family Profiles project in Massachusetts was developed by Families for Depression Awareness (FFDA) in 2001 as a way to help raise awareness of depression, reduce negative attitudes related to mental illnesses, and to prevent suicides. The Family Profile project consists of interviews with families who have experience with depressive disorders and who share their stories and photographs. FFDA was one of the first organizations to use the story and photograph format to educate the public. As a result, FFDA has attracted a lot of media attention and is a “go-to” source for the media to find families to interview for their stories.

FFDA helps families, especially family caregivers and friends, recognize and cope with depressive disorders. The organization provides education, outreach, and advocacy to support families and friends. FFDA is made up of families who have lost a family member to suicide or have watched a loved one suffer with depression, with little knowledge about how to help.

Based on the experience of the FFDA in educating families in public talks and the founder’s own experience in learning about depression through stories, the organization decided that stories from real people with accompanying photographs would be effective in educating the public.

The Family Profiles project is about real people affected by depressive disorders. The individuals involved with the project have agreed to share their stories to help others understand how it feels to have a depressive disorder; what treatment, relationship, and work issues arise; and what really works in coping and working towards recovery. They are helping to fight the social exclusion that prevents many people from seeking help, and they are demonstrating that recovery is possible no matter what the circumstances.

FFDA reaches out to volunteers who are willing to share their stories with the public. The organization works closely with a writer and the volunteers (consumer and family members) to document their story in an accurate and sensitive manner. FFDA also has a photographer take pictures of the volunteer and a family member if possible to show that people with depressive illnesses are everyday people. The stories and their pictures are then compiled and placed on the on the Families Profiles section of the FFDA Web site. The project is then promoted through e-mail newsletters to FFDA membership, which consists of more than 6,000 individuals.

The Family Profiles project has been tremendously well received. It has drawn a lot of media attention, resulting in articles in publications such as the Psychiatric News, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Seventeen, Woman’s Day, Glamour, Better Homes & Gardens, Fitness, New York Times, Marie Claire, USA Today, Boston Globe, Boston Herald, and L.A. Times. They receive over 31 million media impressions per year.

Last year, the FFDA Website received over 74, 000 visits, including 6,500 specific visits to the Family Profiles section. Individuals involved with the Family Profiles project feel they are helping other people by sharing their story. In many cases, participating in this project has helped them to clear up thoughts and concerns about their own situation.

Additionally, profiles listed on the site have also been helpful in getting speaker engagements, assisting volunteers in preparing to share their stories, and engaging audiences (the organization has received very positive speaker survey results regarding the profiles).

FFDA has also collaborated with the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance to produce a brochure called "Bipolar Disorder: Stories of Coping and Courage." Many of the Family profiles are featured in this brochure which has been distributed nationally.

For further information on the Family Profiles project contact Stacey Leibowitz, project manager, Families for Depression Awareness, 395 Totten Pond Road, Waltham, MA 02451, 781-890-0220,

To view Family Profiles developed by the FFDA, click here.


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This Web site was developed under contract with the Office of Consumer Affairs in SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services. The views, opinions, and content provided on this Web site do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of SAMHSA or HHS. The resources listed in this Web site are not all-inclusive and inclusion on this Web site does not constitute an endorsement by SAMHSA or HHS.