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The Power of Shared Stories

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One of depression’s most insidious lies is that you don’t have it. You are just broken. Worthless. And alone.

Another lie is that you will always feel the way you do when in depression’s deep, dark pit, which becomes justification for not seeking treatment or reaching out for support.

Terry McGuire believed both those lies and many others that played on a loop in her head during her worst-ever depression. 

Because “no one talks about it”, which was even more true back in 2015 when she was “taken down by depression”, Terry did not recognise her dark, hopeless thoughts as symptoms of a common and treatable mental health condition. Like many, she accepted them as truths.

“It wasn’t until one day when I was experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack and made the choice to not call 911 that I realised I was getting way too close to the edge,” Terry says. “I called my doctor and told him something was really wrong with me.”

She considers herself “one of the lucky ones for whom antidepressants work quickly,” because within weeks of being diagnosed and treated, she started to feel more herself than she had in years. 

A former broadcast journalist, Terry, says she asked herself what would have helped shorten her unnecessarily long, dark journey. Her answer was “someone who’d been there telling me this was a medical condition and that there are ways out of the darkness.” 

She created what she wished she’d had.

In 2017, Terry founded the non-profit organisation Giving Voice to Mental Illness, Inc. and launched the weekly Giving Voice to Depression podcast. Each week, she interviews someone affected by depression who shares intimate details of their mental health journey as well as the tools that help them manage the mood disorder. 

The podcast is ranked in the top 1% globally by Listen Notes and has been heard nearly two million times in more than 50 countries, clearly showing the need for free, accessible mental health information. 

Her younger sister Bridget, who has also experienced depression, was Terry’s cohost for the first five years. Dr Anita Sanz, a licensed clinical psychologist has taken over the job since Bridget’s retirement, balancing peer support with a professional perspective. 

“We started with the familiar goal of ‘helping even one person’ better understand or manage their depression. But given our growth and reach, we’ve come to understand the global need for candid, shame-free discussions about depression and suicidal thoughts and the power of shared lived experience. There is tremendous value in hearing someone speak matter-of-factly about topics many of us have been conditioned to consider secrets,” McGuire says. 

Listeners have contacted them to say: “If I’d known other people had the same thoughts, I don’t know if I would have attempted suicide.” “Thanks to all the people who share their stories on this podcast. They keep me going,” and “I’ve always felt so alone with my depression. To hear honest, loving talk has been very empowering for me.”

Giving Voice to Depression also has a highly engaged and supportive Facebook community of more than 12,000 people. McGuire says, “We really have no idea of the actual number of people who find support there. Because of stigma, a lot of people choose not to formally follow the page and have depression-related content show up in their feed. In fact, Facebook analytics say the 12k number represents only 3% of people who engage with the page. The numbers aren’t our priority. We’re just glad that when someone searches for information or support, they find us or other caring and credible resources. Depression is just too dark a road to walk alone.”

Terry says “the beauty” of a podcast is that it takes away barriers to access. It’s available for free, 24/7 and there’s no need to make an appointment or even get out of bed if you are lacking the energy. “We truly meet people where they are. We sometimes call it ‘peer support in the privacy of your own headphones.’”

The Giving Voice to Depression podcast is available on all the major players, including Apple and Google podcasts, Spotify, smart speakers, and on their website.

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