Project Blue

Project Blue

Project Blue

One in four women will experience depression in their lifetime, it is estimated that one million adults live with depression each year and less than 50% receive any medical care.

Project Blue is a social media movement focused on causing a dramatic shift in the way depression is represented across the media - with the mission of empowering over 1 million women to take positive action toward achieving mental health. There are three key intentions of Project Blue:

To create fun, friendly female-specific media that "speaks to" consumers across a variety of media channels and platforms and utltises commercial media and marketing techniques to maximisepenetration, response, and interaction rates

To reduce the depression-related stigma experienced by consumers, carers and society by presenting information in a manner that normalizes the experience of depression by creating a community of real faces and stories. To make talking about feeling blue as natural as talking about physical illness.

To dramatically increase the % of consumers that seek professional help, diagnosis and treatment, and that action is taken as soon as symptoms present. To create an extensive, user-friendly "mental health" media resource base that supports action for those undergoing treatment and facilitates action for those not yet engaging professional help.

Depression makes the women experiencing it feel alienated and alone in a world full of 'normal' people. While one in four women experience depression in their lifetime, many will never speak about it or seek professional help because of the social stigma surrounding the mental illness.

The idea of Project Blue is to create a future where every woman feels she empowered to talk openly about feeling blue and taking action to achieve prime mental health.

Monique Van Dijk, aged 28, is the founder of Project Blue. Monique is in marketing and lives in Brisbane. Monique intends on facilitating the creating of media and resources about depression whilst working with existing mental health professionals, government/charitable initiatives and institutes. Monique's main focus is to present a personal and friendly approach towards an issue that is often treated or represented in a clinical manner. Project Blue is a not-for-profit community project which comes from her own personal experience of living with depression.

Why did you create Project Blue?

Monique Van Dijk: I created Project Blue as a community project as a result of the Self Expression & Leadership program I am currently undertaking. I chose the area of depression, and started Project Blue specifically out of my desire to create and represent the change that I wanted to see both in the world and in my own personal life. It was through embarking on the project and engaging the community that I have finally confronted and overcome my own fear of talking about my experience of depression & how it has impacted my life. By being really honest first with myself and then with my circle of friends and family, I have realised that actually, acknowledging & sharing my depression has been an incredibly liberating process for both myself and I think for those around me. Many of the women I have shared with freely have then offered (unsolicited) their own experience of depression - which I find bittersweet... we all think that we are so abnormal and alone, when in fact the opposite is true. Project Blue is about making women around the world realise that.

How big of a problem is depression in the community in regards to women?

Monique Van Dijk: Depression is so common that it is almost certain that one of the women you know is or has been affected by it. One in four women will experience depression in their lifetime, postnatal depression affects 14% of new mothers, and depression is the third most common cause of illness among women in Australia. Over 12 million women in the US suffer from depression every year, with over one million (total estimated women & men) in Australia. Depression is a major problem: costing the Australian community over $600 million each year in treatment costs and it is estimated that depression will be second only to heart disease as the leading medical cause of death and disability within 20 years.

Who does depression normally affect?

Monique Van Dijk: There are no 'typical' demographics that define sufferers. Genetics are just one of the many contributing factors that can cause depression, and although some groups are more likely to experience depression than others, eg. Women and indigenous groups, it is difficult to make generalisations because for example it is believed that women may be more likely to acknowledge or report their depression than men. Social environments, personality types, cognitive behaviour, significant life events & situations, stress and alcohol/drugs/poor nutrition can all contribute to depression, leaving almost no community group unaffected by depression. Depression even affects people who don't "look like" they are suffering from depression to the outside world. Some people living with depression can become skilled at hiding their condition from friends/family or only going out/communicating on the days they feel OK. The word 'depression' is used to describe a full spectrum of illness, and many women experiencing mild depression may not even realise it themselves and/or are still able to function normally on a day-to-day basis... but this doesn't mean that they aren't suffering in silence.

What are the tell-tale signs that someone is depressed?

Monique Van Dijk: As I am not a mental health professional, I would like to direct you to the resource base where I have collected some of my information from
My own personal research suggests that sometimes it can be difficult for an outsider to realise the tell-tale signs as some people actively try to disguise their symptoms. There are also many cases where depression is dismissed or misdiagnosed as there are no fool proof diagnosis tests. In my experience sometimes people often drop hints here and there - it may be their way of asking for help.

What do you suggest should be done if those signs are seen in a close friend or family member?

Monique Van Dijk: As per Beyond Blue's recommended guidelines. Take all suicide threats seriously, and if you need support there are resources available to help you, such as Lifeline. If someone in your life is experiencing depression it is important that you actively seek the professional help that you need to understand what is happening for them, to learn how you can best support them, and to receive support for yourself. Remember that it can be really difficult to relate to or empathize with depression unless you try to educate yourself first.

Explain the 'Blue Like You' campaign?

Monique Van Dijk: The Blue Like You campaign is all about publishing real stories and real faces of Australian women who have experienced or are currently experiencing depression in a friendly and female-focused way, about a collective voice that says acknowledging and sharing your experience of depression is OK. People that participate in or respond to the Blue Like You campaign will be able to understand that depression is a common phenomenon, it can affect woman, and it can "look like" any woman. The women who share their experiences of depression through Blue Like You will help other women identify with and alter their perception of depression as they see themselves or their friends, family, colleagues and community reflected and represented in the campaign. The concept of the campaign is that women will find it liberating to share their experience while others will find it liberating to have these experiences shared with them.

Who are you looking for to participate in the 'Blue Like You' campaign?

Monique Van Dijk: Any girl or woman who has experienced depression or a period of feeling blue is invited to participate in the Blue Like You campaign by contributing their personal stories and accounts of their experience. You may have experienced a depressive episode years ago or you may be currently living with depression - all accounts are significant, as we are looking to represent the full spectrum of experiences.

How those who may have not can experiences depression help with Project Blue?

Monique Van Dijk: Anybody and everybody is welcome to contribute to Project Blue - we are always looking for altruistic writers, researchers, designers as well as those able to contribute their professional expertise in the areas of media, publishing, marketing,etc. Experts in the area of mental health are invited to extend their knowledge & help to a larger audience than ever before. Those unable to devote their time are able to contribute financially to the project (don't let the fact that we are not yet tax deductible), and of course we are always on the lookout for an amazing woman looking to make a real difference as a patron of Project Blue. .

Monique Van Dijk
07 3399 8563