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Sunflowers Raise Funds, Hope for Depressed

Think about it: with so much unemployment, financial unrest and tragedy in our world, it’s easier to be sad than it is to be happy. And sadness is where severe depression begins, leading to life-changing problems like alcoholism, drug abuse, addictive behaviors, and suicide. But IFred, the International Foundation for Research and Education of Depression, aims to find hope for the depressed, and they are doing it with sunflowers.

Sunflowers have become the international symbol for depression, and why not? They are beautiful and bright. Who wouldn’t find a little happiness in something so cheerful-looking? Research has shown that flowers immediately create a happy feeling, and, according to a study by Rutger’s University in New Jersey, the color yellow stimulates the brain. Another study by Texas A&M finds that people perform better, are more productive, and more creative when flowers are placed nearby.

What better way to call attention to a cause then to multiply the symbol by the thousands? That’s why IFred is planting fields of sunflowers it calls “fields of hope,” to raise funds and awareness about mental illness. This year, IFred has decided to plant the 2009 “field of hope” in Ghana, Africa, where more than 2 million people suffer from depression.

Depression and mental illness in America and other developed countries is one thing. But depression in third world countries is another thing entirely. Any form of mental illness in African countries is often mistakenly associated with superstitious beliefs and archaic forms of treatment. In Ghana, many individuals are involuntarily admitted to spiritual camps for “treatment” of mental illnesses. In hopes of ridding “demonic” spirits, people are chained to trees in the hot sun and starved. Though real psychiatric treatment does exist near larger cities, the World Health Organization estimates that only 2% of those with mental disorders are receiving proper treatment.

The Field of Hope in Ghana is intended to reverse the horrible stigma associated with mental illness, and to shed light on the terrible treatment given to those with depression. With donations raised for the field of hope, IFred hopes to educate people in Ghana about depression and proper treatment, and perhaps open a remote location in Ghana.

So, how can you help? According to IFred’s website, “for a small donation, you can have a seed planted for someone you know and watch as it grows into a beautiful yellow field full of sunflowers. It will serve as a reminder that every little thing you do, even something small, when joined together with others can be big and bright and beautiful when loved and nurtured.” For a $25 donation, IFred will plant a sunflower seed in its field of hope in honor of someone you know affected by depression. There are additional donation levels and IFred is also looking for corporate sponsorship.

I know how mental illness can devastate a family because I have a family member who struggled with depression. My family will never be the same. So, I’m going to make a donation right now.

And then, I’m going to go to the store and buy some sunflowers to put all over my house so I can smile every time I look at them.

How about you?

For more information, check out International Foundation for Research and Education of Depression.
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