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Black America Urged to Confront Its Secret Pain: Depression

- Eddie Levert, Terrie M. Williams Speak Out on Mental Health Crisis Facing Black Women -

WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Experts in mental health, Members of Congress and other prominent African Americans today converged at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's 2007 Annual Legislative Conference to shed light on issues surrounding "Black Women Surviving Unmet Mental Health Needs." Rep. Julia Carson (D - IN) together with the Depression Is Real Coalition hosted this special session with keynote speakers Eddie Levert, legendary singer of The O'Jays, and Terrie M. Williams, mental health advocate and acclaimed author.

Eddie Levert, for the first time, passionately lent his voice and visibility to the cause of mental health in Black America and demonstrated his commitment to speaking out about the effect of depression as witnessed and experienced in his family.

"Black women have always taken care of us -- their men, their children, and their community. I have seen first-hand the damaging effects of depression, and it's past time we support our women and educate the black community to recognize depression for what it is -- a medical illness that is nothing to be ashamed of," said Levert.

According to a survey conducted by Mental Health America, 63 percent of people in the African American community believe depression is a personal weakness, while only 31 percent believe it is a medical health problem.

"One thing about black women is that they are survivors," said Rep. Carson. "But we need to do more than survive -- we need to solve a growing crisis among black women who remain silent about this disease in an effort to appear strong. I want black women to find the healing they deserve which will help our families and communities prosper like never before."

"Black women are significantly impacted by mental health problems and yet are reluctant to acknowledge that depression is a serious, biologically-based disease," said Altha Stewart, MD, president of the American Psychiatric Foundation, a founding member of the Depression Is Real Coalition. "Depression can be especially devastating because it is linked to other medical conditions experienced by black women in high numbers, including obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease. And, left untreated, depression can be fatal. We need to do all we can to encourage black women to confront their depression and ensure they get the health care they need."

Depression disproportionately impacts black women:

-- Depression among black women is almost 50% higher than it is among

white women.

-- Of black women suffering from depression, only 7% receive treatment

compared to 20% of white women.

-- Black women are twice as more likely to suffer from depression than

black men.

Terrie M. Williams, author of the forthcoming book Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We're Not Hurting, commented, "My hope is that black women and all of Black America will take a painfully honest look at a silent killer in its own community -- depression. The worst part is that we ourselves are often unaware that we suffer from depression, or - if we know it - too ashamed to admit it and seek help. And until we address the reality of this illness, many of us can't begin to tear down the other obstacles that hold us back."

In addition to Dr. Stewart, experts who joined today's panel include Rahn Bailey, MD, National Medical Association; Lynne Saunders, National Alliance on Mental Illness; Gina Villani, MD, National Urban League; and Angela M. Burks, JD, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University.

Panelists addressed a number of issues surrounding mental health and black women, including health care disparities; depression and its link to breast cancer; workplace depression; the role of families in mental health care; as well as the racism, gender bias, poverty, and social disadvantages women of color experience that can lead to depression and stress.

The Depression Is Real Coalition, a group of seven preeminent medical, advocacy and civic groups, co-sponsoring today's braintrust, has made it its mission to dispel popular misconceptions that trivialize one form of mental illness in particular, depression -- as "just the blues" or dismiss it entirely as an "imaginary disease." Depression affects more than 19 million Americans per year.

The Depression Is Real public education campaign is sponsored by The American Psychiatric Foundation (a philanthropic and educational subsidiary of the American Psychiatric Association), the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, the League of United Latin American Citizens, Mental Health America, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the National Medical Association, the National Urban League and is made possible through the support of Wyeth.

For more information about depression and the coalition members, and to see elements of the Depression Is Real public education campaign, visit

About Terrie M. Williams

Terrie M. Williams is a licensed clinical social worker holding B.A. and M.S. degrees in her field. She is the founder of The Terrie Williams Agency, a premier public relations firm, and has served as a trusted and respected advisor to countless high-profile clients. Terrie's phenomenal success in both professions and as an author, advocate and mentor with her

Stay Strong Foundation is largely due to her expertise in dealing with people. Today, she is committed to guiding people in deep emotional pain onto a path of healing. Her forthcoming, groundbreaking book BLACK PAIN: It Just Looks Like We're Not Hurting takes an in-depth look at Black America's depression through the experiences of celebrities, every day people, and mental health professionals. "BLACK PAIN" will be published on January 8, 2007 (Scribner).

About Eddie Levert

Eddie Levert is a founding member of the pioneering 1970s soul group and 2005 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees The O'Jays. The group's classic hits include "Family Reunion," "Back Stabbers," "I Love Music," "For the Love of Money," and the 1971 #1 Billboard hit "Love Train." Eddie has recorded more than 60 albums and generated 24 top 10 hits. He is a best-selling co-author of the book I Got Your Back: A Father and Son Keep It Real About Love, Fatherhood, Family and Friendship along with his dearly departed son, Gerald.


The American Psychiatric Foundation is a philanthropic and educational arm of the American Psychiatric Association, the world's leading psychiatric organization. The mission of the foundation is to advance understanding that mental illnesses are real and can be effectively treated.

The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) is the nation's leading patient-directed organization focusing on depression and bipolar disorder. The organization, which has more than 1,000 support groups nationwide, fosters an understanding about the impact and management of these life-threatening illnesses by providing up-to-date, scientifically-based tools and information. Assisted by a 65-member scientific advisory board, comprised of the leading researchers and clinicians in the field of mood disorders, DBSA supports research to promote more timely diagnosis, develop more effective and tolerable treatments and discover a cure. More than 4 million receive information and assistance each year.

The League of the United Latin American Citizens is the oldest and largest Latino civil rights organization in the United States. It advances the economic conditions, educational attainment, political influence, health and civil rights of Hispanic Americans through community-based programs operating at more than 700 LULAC councils nationwide.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness. NAMI has over 1,100 affiliates in communities across the country who engage in advocacy, research, support, and education. Members of NAMI are families, friends, and people living with mental illnesses such as major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and borderline personality disorder.

The National Medical Association is the nation's oldest and largest organization representing the interest of more than 30,000 physicians of African descent.

Mental Health America is the country's oldest and largest nonprofit organization addressing all aspects of mental health and mental illness. With more than 340 affiliates nationwide,

MHA works to improve the mental health of all Americans through advocacy, education, research and service.

Established in 1910, the National Urban League is the nation's oldest and largest community-based movement devoted to empowering African Americans to enter the economic and social mainstream. Today, the National Urban League, headquartered in New York City, spearheads the non-partisan efforts of its local affiliates. There are over 100 local affiliates of the National Urban League located in 35 states and the District of Columbia providing direct services to more than 2 million people nationwide through programs, advocacy and research.

SOURCE Depression Is Real Coalition
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