THE STORY BEHIND THAT DEPRESSION SIGN ON 72ND STREET THAT SEEMED TO BE UP FOREVER

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Photo by Kalliope Amorphous.

The foundation that first put up a massive sign about depression on the side of 166 West 72nd Street in the 1990’s hadn’t spoken to the building’s owners or had anything to do with it in years, a foundation rep told us. Apparently, the building’s owners had simply left it up, until painting it over in recent weeks.

The sign was part of a public service announcement in the 1990’s, explained Lauren Duran, a spokesperson for the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, in an email. The foundation hadn’t talked to the building owners in years about it, and it had simply stayed up and become a kind of landmark over time. We reported a few days ago that the building had suddenly painted it over, which surprised some locals who had gotten used to it. The building’s management still hasn’t gotten back to us.

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Through the years it’s clear the sign had become a comfort to people. One woman who posted an image of it on Instagram wrote that “For people who are struggling, including myself, I want to express that it’s okay. There is help out there for those who want it. Don’t be ashamed of who you are and how you feel. Chemistry, not character.”

“Depression is a flaw in chemistry not character” That statement has been painted on this building near 72nd St and Amsterdam for as long as I can remember as a young kid. Perhaps since before that. I wish that more people would realize that this is true about depression as well as other mental illnesses. Being in the mental health field, I am often astounded by how many people stigmatize those experiencing mental health problems, whether it’s a parent asking me why her child “can’t just get it together” or a professional judging a trainee, such as myself, for having symptoms of anxiety and depression before, during, and after my mom’s death. It feels like it’s everywhere, even among those who are supposed to “know better.” So I thought I’d post this as part of my wish to help de-stigmatize mental health issues. Whether related to grieving a loss or not, many people experience mental health issues in their lives. Effective treatments do exist to help many problems, although of course no therapy is a panacea for everything. For people who are struggling, including myself, I want to express that it’s okay. There is help out there for those who want it. Don’t be ashamed of who you are and how you feel. Chemistry, not character. #mom #mum #mother #grieving #sadness #strength #mourning #grief #resilient #strong #heartbroken #loss #bereavement #motherless #motherlessdaughters #mentalhealth #therapy #endthestigma #stigma #mentalillness #support

A photo posted by Motherless Daughters (@motherlessdaughters) on

We’ve always wondered, however, if people with corner windows at The Alexandria on 72nd and Broadway may have ever gotten tired of seeing the yellow sign every day.

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The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation remains active in spreading the word about depression and treatment options. It produces a TV series about mental illness called Healthy Minds with Dr. Jeffrey Borenstein that is being shown on WLIW in New York for the next 14 weeks. And it will soon host a symposium in the neighborhood.

“The Foundation also invites the public to attend its 28th Annual New York International Mental Health Research Symposium for families and caregivers, which will take place on the Upper West Side, where some of the world’s leading scientists will discuss the latest research on cognitive neuroscience, and preventing and treating mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, psychosis, bipolar disorder, and PTSD, Friday, October 28, 2016, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., the Kaufman Music Center, 129 West 67th Street (between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenues) in Manhattan. For the full program and to register online, visit https://bbrfoundation.org/foundation-annual-symposium. Admission is free with a suggested donation of $35 per person.”

NEWS | 24 comments | permalink
    1. yoyomama says:

      Interesting story.

      Now does anyone know what the work crews are working on on the SW corner of 72/Columbus? Whatever it is has been taking forever.

      Thanks

      • Big Earl says:

        In typical NYC fashion, the work being done on 72nd and Columbus has taken forever. We are lucky when they decide to show up once or twice a week. Or not show up for the whole week. Anyhow, the building on the corner with the Swatch shop is the reason. Apparently every time it rains, their basement floods. So the city ripped up the sidewalk and part of the street and waterproofed the whole area to stop the leaking.

    2. Lisa says:

      I missed it immediately. When I bought my apartment in ’08 and saw that outside my living room window and knew I had landed in the perfect spot. I still know I landed in the perfect spot but I miss my sign of perfect acceptance.

    3. Marc says:

      We looked right at it. Eyesore – glad it’s gone

      • Suzy says:

        Yeah, doesn’t matter that it became a part of the character and landscape of the upper west side all these years and most likely gave comfort to many suffering from depression.
        Would you be more comfortable looking at a 100 story luxury high rise? Yeah… then you’d feel right at home.

      • I hate unique things! says:

        Yes, join me as we scrub the city of everything interesting or gritty or weird and paint it beige.

    4. Mark says:

      Depression didn’t exist in this city before DeBlasio became the mayor.

    5. Mary says:

      I hope that The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation will celebrate its’ Symposium next week by repainting their message for New Yorkers and for visitors to New York who see their sign on all their city tours.

    6. Sally says:

      I love how you went to such lengths to get to the bottom of that mystery. Maybe you could use those same skills to find out why there has been scaffolding for so long on the building at Amsterdam and 76th!

    7. Sean says:

      That sign was depressing in and of itself. It always made me think of UWS crazy cat ladies.

      • Cato says:

        That’s unfortunate. The whole point of the sign was to say that people with depression are not only “crazy cat ladies”. It’s a shame that, for all the times you saw it and, perhaps, read the words, you never thought about it.

      • Jared says:

        Haha. Yeah I always thought it made the neighborhood look a little run-down, like the building it was on was abandoned or condemned.

    8. Phoebe says:

      Sean, you sound prejudiced against people experiencing emotional issues, cats and ladies– a self-hating west-sider, projecting his negative character-is-tics onto others. I am a woman who loves cats, and as far as I am concerned, they keep me sane! West Side Animal Lovers Unite!

    9. Phoebe says:

      How come half the time I leave a comment, I never see it? Just wondering…(it was for Sean, esp.) Let’s see if this gets in and then I’ll post again when I have another minute–I’m in the subway now🎃

    10. Nathan says:

      Nice to know the backstory, but I don’t understand why people would be upset that it’s gone. The building owners are free to do what they wish within the bounds of the law. It’s not like the sign was some sort of landmark. Who cares?

      • Cato says:

        “Who cares?” The people who’ve said they care.

        If you “don’t understand why people would be upset that it’s gone”, perhaps you should read what people have written about why they’re upset that it’s gone.

        You may feel otherwise; you may not care that it’s gone. But don’t dismiss other people who do care. Disagree if you like, but at least acknowledge others who hold opinions different from yours.

    11. 9d8b7988045e4953a882 says:

      Bring back the sign I say! It was a good message, and it added character to the neighborhood.

    12. Casandra says:

      Personally, I found that sign
      annoying, but I realized that it could
      be of some help to people suffering
      from actual clinical depression, and
      so I thought it a good thing, despite
      my own feelings.
      My annoyance came from personal
      experience with two different types
      of person. I’ve known many people,
      including myself, who have gone
      through periods (or lifetimes) of
      real emotional difficulty due to
      life events and/or chemical inbalances.
      But I’ve also known people who had
      no cause for the emotional problems
      that they complained of, and that
      they used to deliberately manipulate
      others. Some people really need
      and deserve assistance. Some are
      just wankers who found an excuse
      to have others indulge their refusal
      to grow up.
      Sometimes it can be difficult
      for even a trained professional
      to know which category a person
      falls into. As a matter of
      ethics and good manners, I think
      any person in apparent distress
      should be given the benefit of
      the doubt – there but for fortune
      could go you or I. But don’t
      co-sign a loan for them unless
      you can afford to lose the money.

    13. Big Earl says:

      At least they painted over it with a color that matches and blends in with the rest of the building. Oh, wait…………..