Julie Hersh is determined to show others that life is waiting on the other side of depression. She is a powerhouse, but her influence is born from a vulnerability and honesty that is often kept to hushed conversations. By sharing her own story of struggling with depression, and talking about her three suicide attempts – Julie has inspired many in our community to come forward and get the help that they need and deserve.
“My experience is that so many people do not understand why anybody would attempt suicide, or how somebody could possibly feel such depths of despair,” said Julie. “My main objective when I first started talking about this was to help people communicate and begin to understand depression.”
In 2015, the Hersh Foundation, co-founded by Julie and her husband, Ken, made a transformational gift of $5 million to establish the Center for Depression Research and Clinical Care (CDRC) at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Led by Dr. Madhukar Trivedi, The Center is focused on improving detection, prevention, and treatment of depression and mood disorders through quality research and community-based programs – a critically needed resource for our community.
“When I went through my most severe period of depression in 2001, I visited my family physician and he did not address my symptoms,” said Julie. “He gave me a blood test, told me there was nothing physiologically wrong with me, and sent me home. Unfortunately, I think this is a pretty common story for those who are suffering from depression. I spent months after that playing roulette and trying to find the right medication, none of which worked for me until I tried electroconvulsive therapy. I’ve often thought that if that doctor had the right tools, he could have guided me to the right types of treatment, or to the right specialist. It could have changed my whole trajectory.”
“My experience is that so many people do not understand why anybody would attempt suicide, or how somebody could possibly feel such depths of despair. My main objective when I first started talking about this was to help people communicate and begin to understand depression.”
Outcomes from the CDRC make Julie hopeful about the future of depression treatment for our community and beyond. “The CDRC has screened over 45,000 patients for depression, which is unheard of in the world of mental illness research. In addition, Trivedi and his group are making major strides toward developing a blood test that shows how a patient will react to various medications. This sort of personalized care will dramatically improve speed to recovery.”
Julie is a member of Southwestern Medical Foundation’s Board of Trustees and we continue to be grateful for her leadership in our community. In addition to her support of the CDRC, she continues to spread awareness about depression and mental health. Recently she spoke with employees at a major financial services firm in our city.
“It was such a great experience, and I was grateful for the opportunity to share the message about how important early detection is for better remission rates,” said Julie. “Our historic tendency with mental health has been to wait until there's a crisis or catastrophe. Either somebody drops out of school, or they lose their job, or get divorced, or they attempt suicide, and then we try to address mental illness. This is like waiting until a very severe stage of cancer and then trying to tackle the problem. Your results are going to be much poorer when the disease is severe, as opposed to if you can catch it with early warning signs.”