The Louisville Cardinal

University campaign targets African-Americans with depression

health logo

By Kyeland Jackson —

Beleaguered in part by racism, stress, violence and economic strain, African-Americans often grapple depression.With help from U of L’s School of Public Health & Information Sciences, a new health literacy campaign looks to aid African-Americans in coping with depression by raising awareness.

“The Depression is Real” campaign targets African-Americans in West Louisville, reducing stigma surrounding depression through ads and outreach. Ads will circulate on posters, TARC buses, social media, radio and public outreach, connecting West Louisville residents with local behavioral health providers.

Public health assistant professor Ryan Combs is helping lead the campaign. Combs says one in 10 African-Americans face depression, but a lack of awareness causes missed diagnoses of the illness.

“Much of my work is on reducing health disparities in West Louisville, which is majority African American,” Combs said. “People who experience chronic stress can be at risk for depression and there are many potential sources of stress in the community. For example, African-Americans’ mental health can be negatively affected by exposure to racism, demeaning stereotypes, lower socioeconomic status, exposure to violence and so on.”

A 2013 Pew study affirms Combs observation, noting 46 percent of black respondents said there’s a lot of discrimination against African-Americans.

Comprised of community members, public health professionals, academics and graduate students, campaign ads hope to encourage treatment.

“An evaluation of our campaign will help us to see whether we have achieved our aims,” Combs said. “If we are successful in improving health outcomes and publish our process and results, others will be able to replicate this work in communities nationwide.”

A grant from Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence funded the project, which began developing in April. The campaign runs through Dec. 25.

Ads courtesy The Commonwealth Institute of Kentucky / School of Public Health & Information Sciences