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Breaking Depression UK
Added: 7th Dec 2020

Severe depression still kept a secret by more than a million people in the UK* – new campaign aims to break the silence


SANE launches new campaign to encourage and support talking openly about major depressive disorder (MDD), a serious and debilitating form of depression

  • New survey shows that almost 9 out of 10 people living with MDD hide the effects of their depression from others¹
  • Nearly a third of UK adults said they wouldn’t be very comfortable talking about mental health with someone who has MDD, because they wouldn’t know how to provide support²

A new survey shows that almost three-quarters (73 percent) of people with major depressive disorder (MDD) try to keep their depression a secret, and nine out of 10 people with MDD try and hide the effect it has on them.¹ MDD is a serious and debilitating form of depression, affecting more than two million people in the UK. ³,?

The survey of 202 patients and carers was commissioned as part of Breaking Depression, a new UK campaign developed as a partnership between SANE and Janssen, a Pharmaceutical Company of Johnson & Johnson. Breaking Depression aims to tackle misconceptions and stigma surrounding MDD to help break the silence and equip people to start a conversation about the condition, either with a friend, family member or healthcare professional. Many people with MDD try to hide their condition because they feel ashamed and worry about how others close to them will react, but the first conversation can be an important step towards getting help.¹

Marjorie Wallace CBE, Chief Executive of SANE commented, “Anyone who has ever witnessed major depressive disorder will know it is the most lonely and tormenting condition that can leave people trapped in the four walls of their own thoughts and fears, often unable to leave their homes. The cruelty of the illness is that many who suffer from it are resistant to existing medications and therapies and all too often suffer in silence. They have become the ‘forgotten people’ in the mental health system.”

“The findings of our survey highlight the significant number of people who feel they have to hide their depression, with many still worrying about opening up to others. This leads to delays in seeking help, with potentially life-threatening consequences: people with major depressive disorder are twenty times more likely than others to take their own lives.”

Findings from a separate survey of the general public, commissioned on behalf of Janssen, revealed that only 39 per cent have heard of major depressive disorder.² The findings showed that 73 per cent of UK adults wouldn’t feel very comfortable talking to someone with MDD about their mental health – and almost a third of those said they wouldn’t know how to provide support and 41 per cent said they would feel worried about upsetting them.²

Marjorie continues, “We hope that by taking a fresh look at this debilitating condition and its impact on people’s lives, we can bring about greater understanding, prioritised research and more effective treatments.”

The Breaking Depression campaign explores the journey of living with MDD told through the visual Japanese art of kintsugi – a technique to mend broken pottery pieces using adhesive mixed with powdered gold to highlight the flaws and imperfections as part of the design. Even though the repair process is complex, by taking each broken piece one at a time, we can recognise the beauty and uniqueness of each person’s journey and support the path to recovery.

*Based on 73% of 2 million people in the UK living with major depressive disorder which gives 1,460,000 people. 1,3,4


Media enquiries:

Richard Colwill (Media Manager, SANE) Mobile: 07718 735 121 Email:

Chandni Kerai (Evoke KYNE) Mobile: 07896 873 321 Email:

Notes to editors

About Breaking Depression

The Breaking Depression campaign aims to tackle misconceptions and stigma surrounding major depressive disorder (MDD), and ultimately ‘break’ depression. The campaign seeks to encourage open and honest conversations, to destigmatise the condition, and help improve the lives of people affected by MDD. It is hoped that increasing awareness and understanding of MDD will create empathy and empower others to offer support.

Breaking Depression takes its inspiration from the ancient Japanese art of kintsugi using it as a powerful metaphor for the journey faced by people living with MDD. Translating to ‘golden joinery’, kintsugi treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object and embraces imperfections rather than concealing them. The campaign uses kintsugi as a means of creative storytelling, to share the experiences of individuals and carers affected by MDD and their recovery, breaking down stigma and acknowledging that the repair process is complex.

For more information please visit

The UK Breaking Depression campaign has been initiated and funded by Janssen-Cilag Limited, and developed in collaboration with SANE.

About Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

MDD, is a serious and debilitating form of depression, where those affected experience lasting depressive episodes that can range in terms of their intensity and persistence.? MDD creates a ripple effect across every aspect of a person’s life, including thei relationships, career, physical health and overall quality of life. 6,7,8 

Symptoms, combined with social stigma, can often lead to isolation, avoidance, and an inability to engage in usual work or social activities.8,9 These feelings and experiences, as well as the fear of judgment, often prevent people from accessing the help and support they need.

About SANE

SANE is a leading UK mental health charity working to improve the quality of life of anyone affected by mental illness. It aims to raise awareness and understanding of all mental health conditions; to fight to improve frontline mental health services for individuals and carers; to provide support, information and guidance through its helpline, SANEline, Caller Care service, Textcare and Online Forum; and to promote and host research into causes, treatments and therapies at the Prince of Wales International Centre for SANE Research in Oxford. For more information, visit

About the surveys

  1. Major Depressive Disorder: Patient & Carer Research conducted by Synergy Healthcare Research on behalf of Janssen and SANE. Total sample size was 202 patients and carers. Fieldwork was undertaken August-September 2019.
  2. Perceptions of Depression: Omnibus survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of Janssen. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2133 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 26th-27th October 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).


1 Major Depressive Disorder: Patient & Carer Research conducted by Synergy Health Research on behalf of Janssen and SANE, August-September 2019.

2 Perceptions of Depression: Omnibus survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of Janssen, October 2020.

3 McManus S, et al. (2016) Mental Health and Wellbeing in England: Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014. Available at: ms-2014-full-rpt.pdf. Last accessed November 2020.

4 Office for National Statistics (2018) Population estimates for the UK, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland: mid-2017. Available at: Last accessed November 2020.

5 American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

6 Trivedi MH, et al. (2004) The Link Between Depression and Physical Symptoms. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry;6(Suppl 1):12-16.

7 Judd LL, et al. (2000) Psychosocial Disability During the Long-term Course of Unipolar Major Depressive Disorder. Arch Gen Psychiatry;57:375-380.

8 Rössler W, et al. (2016) The stigma of mental disorders. EMBO Reports;17(9): 1250–3.

9 Lerner D, et al. (2010) Work Performance of Employees With Depression: The Impact of Work Stressors. Am J Health Promot; 24(3):205–13.

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