I recently sat down with a colleague and former TMS patient, Schatzie Brunner, to learn more about her new business venture, New Way Now, which is a non-profit organization centered on depression awareness, education and resources.
Below are insights from my conversation with former CNN anchor, author, depression advocate and Founder of New Way Now, Schatzie Brunner:
Depression is something that many are hesitant to discuss – out of fear, out of misunderstanding, out of shame, and out of guilt – but it is a vital health issue that we, as a society, are long overdue to start a conversation. Depression is a disease that significantly impacts the lives of millions and has consequences in our communities and businesses that few realize. Depression can disrupt personal and professional relationships, create physical fatigue and exhaustion, and jeopardize a person’s ability to do his or her job effectively.
The statistics around depression are startling. More than 16 million American adults experience major depressive disorder in their lifetimes – nearly 7 percent of the U.S. population. More than 10 million experience an episode of depression that results in severe impairment each year.
In addition to my day job as a psychiatrist, I’m continually looking for opportunities to help individuals better themselves when it comes to mental health, and decrease the stigma of mental health. It is with this preamble that I introduce Schatzie Brunner who had the courage to speak about her struggles with depression and to step up to help others begin the journey of recovery from depression.
Q: Schatzie, give us a little background on you and your battle with depression.
BRUNNER: I know this struggle because I lived with chronic depression for more than four decades, and it wasn’t until I got honest with myself that I started to heal on the deepest level. I’ve lived in the “Black Hole,” and it is the worst place of all to live. It is, quite literally, a living hell. Moreover, it wasn’t until I began to talk about my depression openly that I found a surprising relief and healing that I didn’t expect. The more I talked about it, the less shame and loneliness I felt.
Being honest with yourself and others can be difficult. Each person has to learn to open up at their own pace and only with those they trust as their journey from depression begins. If you’re hiding a big part of who you are, you can’t truly heal.
My journey and that new feeling of relief led me to want to encourage others hiding their depression to begin to talk about their feelings with their most trusted friends and loved ones, and to understand when to seek professional help.
Thus, I worked with medical professionals to create New Way Now.
Q: What is New Way Now?
BRUNNER: New Way Now is a non-profit organization that provides educational resources for those suffering from depression. At the core, the organization is more of a movement, if you will, focused on “honesty.” Being honest with yourself when addressing self-care and health. The idea for this venture was born from my belief that honesty with ourselves is the key to our health and the road to lessening our depression.
Q: How does New Way Now help?
BRUNNER: New Way Now’s website provides educational information on depression symptoms and an easy-to-use anonymous online questionnaire to help individuals or loved ones identify mental health issues, as well as offers resources to get help. The site encourages visitors to ask themselves if they or someone they know needs emotional support.
The 9-question survey helps to gauge one’s level of depression, and upon submission of the questionnaire, it connects site visitors to mental health professionals in your community who are available to see you and help evaluate your options. Currently, the site only lists mental health providers in Tennessee and Kentucky, but we are expanding efforts to add more states and additional resources.
Q: Any last words of advice?
BRUNNER: Depression recovery should not be a do-it-yourself project. We all talk about meditation, stress-reduction, journaling, exercise, staying connected and other forms of self-care. However, do we know what the right choice is for each of us to identify and better understand our mental health?
Trust me—I was a master of believing I was completely honest with myself for decades before I found this new path and I encourage others to take a more proactive approach to their mental health. Please visit newwaynow.org to learn more.