Kaiser Permanente teams up with StoryCorps
Telling stories has helped humans make sense of our lives since our ancestors first sat around a fire. Through sharing and listening, we grasp the meaning of events, come to understand our feelings, and realize what we have in common with others. The more we find points of connection, the more we know we’re not alone.
For people living with mental health conditions, knowing they’re not alone can be especially important. Sharing a story about personal experiences with mental health conditions can help in your own recovery, as well as provide encouragement and hope to others.
Kaiser Permanente has teamed up with StoryCorps, a national oral history project, to capture intimate conversations about depression and other mental health conditions between 2 people who know each other well. When we put out a call, both inside and outside the organization, asking people to share their stories, many volunteered right away.
“It’s important for people who feel depressed to know that there are other people out there who feel the same way,” said one of our participants. “I’d like to help people not be ashamed or embarrassed to talk about how they feel.”
The relationship is part of Kaiser Permanente’s public health awareness campaign called Find Your Words, which launched in 2016 and aims to break the silence and reduce stigma around depression and other mental health conditions.
The recorded conversations — along with mental health resources, a self-assessment tool, and information on how to get help — are available on findyourwords.org.
In the coming months, more conversations will be added, including one in Spanish. Each recording eventually will be accompanied by an animation of the story.
This is the first time StoryCorps has devoted recordings solely to depression and other mental health issues.
“Mental health is a big issue in our society and one that we’ve touched upon in many of our recordings ever since we began 14 years ago,” said Braden Lay-Michaels, chief external relations officer with StoryCorps. “We are hoping this partnership and this sharp focus on mental health will help people understand mental health and create empathy for those struggling with mental health conditions.”
The relationship, Lay-Michaels added, aligns well with the StoryCorps’ mission, which is to preserve and share experiences and stories to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.
Don Mordecai, MD, the Kaiser Permanente national leader on mental health and wellness, is hoping these recordings will help fight the stigma that prevents many people with depression from getting help.
“Our hope is that others who hear these stories of people who have successfully managed their mental health issues will now feel encouraged to either seek help or to talk to a friend or loved one,” Dr. Mordecai said. “There are so many people out there suffering needlessly.”
“It’s calming to know you are not alone. You are not alone,” said a participant at the end of her story. “Just remember that.”