Depression looks like Chella Man, an artist who is deaf, gender queer and living with the mental illness. It looks like Zoe Stoller, who considers her depression and her queer identity part of her life story. And it looks like Ren Fernandez-Kim, a nonbinary, mixed race person who says she has often felt “stuck and overlooked” despite her wish to heal.
All three are trusted voices in the LGBTQ+ community who are sharing their stories as part of Johnson & Johnson’s new “Depression Looks Like Me” awareness campaign, which launched today.
“Living with depression can make it hard to find a safe space or someone with whom you feel you can confide in,” Fernandez-Kim said in a press release. Figuring out what to do about your depression can be even more challenging “if you do not feel yourself represented,” she added.
The goal of the campaign is to normalize the conversation about mental health and depression and inspire and empower the LGBTQ+ community to seek mental health care if they need it, Courtney Billington, president of Janssen’s neuroscience division, said in an interview.
In addition to offering relatable stories, the campaign website also aims to be a clearinghouse for culturally appropriate information and resources about depression, carefully curated to reflect the experience of the LGBTQ+ community. It includes directories to LGBTQ+-friendly healthcare professionals and links for online trained counselors and support hotlines as well as general information about treatment options.
As the campaign points out, members of the LGBTQ+ community are three times more likely than the general population to have mental health conditions. However, research shows they are also 2.5 times more likely than cisgender or heterosexual counterparts to use mental health services if the resources are available.
“We felt like if we could empower this group, provide great education and provide better resources all in one place, ultimately we could achieve better outcomes,” Billington said.
The effort is part of J&J’s broader “Our Race to Health Equity” initiative, which earmarks $100 million to help “eradicate racial and social injustice as a public health threat.”
In developing the messaging and sourcing the stories, Janssen worked closely with the National Coalition for LGBTQ Health and leading mental health and LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations such as SAGE, the National Alliance on Mental Health, the TransLatin@ Coalition and others.
Billington said the drugmaker also sought feedback internally from J&J employees who are part of the company’s LGBTQ+ employee resource group.
“Being very frank, we learned from previous campaigns that some of the partners that we used, they didn’t cater to the community,” he said. “They didn’t look like the community, and they couldn’t understand some of their issues and concerns.”
Janssen markets the antidepressant nasal spray Spravato for adults with depression that isn’t alleviated by other drugs or for those who are actively thinking about suicide. Patients administer the fast-acting spray under their doctor’s supervision and in addition to their usual treatment.
Although the campaign is unbranded, the website does include a link where people can click through to the Spravato website to learn more about options for harder-to-treat forms of depression.