Kicking the Stigma Out of Depression

Kathryn Goetzke is the founder of the International Foundation for Research and Education for Depression and is on a mission to educate the public about the stigma of depression.

Kathryn seeds

Sunflowers dressed a local market to welcome the fall season. You can’t deny it. These beauties bring a smile to your face and even a jolt to your step. The flower also symbolizes hope, happiness and shedding light on the dark side of depression. Kathryn Goetzke, age 40, is an entrepreneur and founder of the International Foundation for Research and Education for Depression, or iFred. Goetzke is on a mission to shake out the misconceptions and educate the public that there’s nothing to be ashamed of, and like the representation of the sunflower, there is a bright future beyond depression.

Besides using a positive marketing campaign to counteract the negative impact depression, Goetzke is encouraging companies and donors to plant sunflower seeds to “eradicate the stigma of depression” and has become the first person that launched a Cause Marketing Campaign for depression with her launch of Mood-lites currently sold at Lowes nationwide, according to her website.

Why does the sunflower appeal to you?

Humans have a 100 percent positive reaction to flowers and both men and women love sunflowers. They create a greener planet by planting them. There are so many positives in using sunflowers as a symbol. Yellow is associated with happiness, hope and joy. Right now the basic image of depression is associated with someone with their head in the hands, alone in a corner, and in a dark place, which is focusing on a depressive episode. I equate it to the experience with Pavlov’s dogs where he could get the dog to salivate at the ring of a bell (i.e. a positive association). We need to do that for depression. Right now a hopeless photo and associate it with the disease. If we can replace that photo with a positive one, like the sunflower, the initial feeling in the body associated with the word becomes one of hope.


How can we change the stigma of depression?

For them [researchers] to understand a small part of 300 of those 100 billion neurons, it took 20 years. It’s just fascinating what we can learn from the brain if we are open to exploring it. The sunflowers aren’t going to eradicate the stigma, but they’re going to open the conversation in a positive way as opposed to a negative way. As we talk about their experiences with depression, and how they have been able to persevere--that ultimately is going to change the stigma. The sunflower and Fields for Hope are a door to get us there.

Why are you so personally passionate about this issue?

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Corine Gatti
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