Jonathan Rottenberg, PhD

Jonathan Rottenberg Ph.D.

Charting the Depths

We Need a Positive Symbol For Depression

A challenge to readers: Come up with an idea that changes the world.

Posted Jul 25, 2013

A positive symbol transmutes a stigmatized identity into a strengh

Breast cancer has the pink ribbon.

Gay pride has the rainbow flag.

Cancer has the Livestrong bracelet

These symbols are all powerful means for people to reclaim threatened and stigmatized identities.

What does depression have for symbols? Really nothing. A grey cloud? A noose? A black ribbon? A pill bottle?

Positive symbols mobilize people and harness their energy for change. Strikingly, there is no race for the cure for depression. No dance marathons for depression. Nor golf tournaments or walks across America for depression. No Frisbees with a depression logo.

This symbol has helped change the world in just a few decades.

Why does it matter? Well, how much money did the Livestrong bracelet raise for the Livestrong Foundation? How much honor have the millions of Komen walkers brought the people who have died and the people who have survived breast cancer? How much has display of the rainbow flag on lapel pins, on flags flying in yards, and on bumpers tickers led to a landslide of social and political change? Money, honor, and social energy matter.

It is high time for our society to revise its stance towards the tens of millions who currently or previously battle depression. Our conventional view of depression is still the disease model, which casts the legions of the depressed as a “broken” people, an ever-afflicted group that will likely need repeated assistance over the life course. This stance is inaccurate and belittling, and it robs depressed and formerly depressed people of their true strength. Its unwitting effect has been to continue the corrosive age-old stigma towards depression and depressed people.

Until we have a positive symbol that brings depression out of the dark, something that can be displayed with pride on a wrist, a chest, or a bumper, nothing will change.


Even if you don't have any, please share this post with someone who might. I'll follow up with some of your ideas in a future post.

Let's not rest until we have a positive symbol, ok?


Please comment below or send me your ideas for designs at

Let's build a better national conversation about depression.

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