(Editor’s Note: The following was submitted toNFTfrom the Floor Covering Industry Foundation, an organization that assists people in the flooring industry who experience life-altering hardships. For more information on the FCIF or to learn how you can help visit www.fcif.org or call (714) 634-0302.)

They call it “the blues” or feeling “down in the dumps.” But clinical depression is more than just experiencing temporary feelings of sadness. It’s a serious medical condition that affects a person’s mind and body. It impacts all aspects of everyday life from eating and sleeping to working, relationships and self-esteem. People who are clinically depressed cannot just “snap out of it.” Without proper treatment, the symptoms can continue for weeks, months, even years -doing irreparable damage to their careers, their families and their lives.

Such is the story of Don Berman, who was just 40 years old when depression struck. As the vp of a successful carpet wholesaler in the Midwest, Berman produced millions of dollars in sales each year and was honored with awards. His clients enjoyed working with him so much that they threw him a surprise party. But Berman was so humble, he never told his family.

Friends say that’s the kind of man he was - kind, friendly, outgoing, a caring husband and father and capable of juggling a career in the floor covering industry. By all accounts, Berman was at the top of his game.

But then, something terrible occurred. Family and friends were concerned as he became isolated and non-communicative, refusing to speak on the telephone or even leave his home. He developed an eating disorder and his performance at work suffered and sales dropped. His employer had little choice but to fire him. Although he found new employment he quickly isolated himself again. He lost touch with his parents. His marriage suffered and his wife left him when she became incapable of coping with his illness. His live savings went to support his family and he was left with almost nothing.

With the help of a friend and former client, Berman settled into a boarding house but for two years Berman had no job and earned no money. He often refused to speak - communicating only through facial expressions. He felt helpless.

That’s when the Floor Covering Industry Foundation stepped in. Founded in 1980 by several prominent industry figures, led by the late Walter Guinan, the FCIF is dedicated to financially assisting floor covering industry professionals who experience catastrophic illness, severe disabilities or other life-altering hardships.

Berman’s friend researched hospitals, spoke to doctors and ultimately discovered Project Transition - a well-respected transitional program that seemed to be exactly what his friend needed. With financial assistance from the FCIF, Berman joined the program and received the personal care and medical attention that he needed. His medication was administered on a consistent basis and he had access to a social worker and a psychologist. Over a 2 1/2 year period, the dark cloud that Don Berman had been living under finally lifted.

He reconnected with his children and lived independently within the larger Project Transition complex. He even ventured outdoors for the first time in years. The program helped him control his chronic condition with medication and cognitive therapy. Berman had been given a second chance at life.

Today, Berman has his own apartment and works for a friend. He communicates effectively and manages his own finances. While the FCIF works confidentially, Berman asked that his story be made public. He wanted to show his appreciation to the organization so that others may be aware of the organization’s extraordinary efforts.

In a letter to the FCIF, Berman wrote: “There are simply no proper words for me to express to you my appreciation for your financial support during my critical bout with depression. The progress I have made at Project Transition in the past two years has been amazing. Even some of the staff members are calling it a miracle. Although I am still associated with the program and receiving some help from the staff, I have been living in my own apartment since last August and have been employed. Without your help, none of this would have been possible. Thank you very, very much! I hope that sometime I will be able to support your program in some positive manner.”

Depression affects approximately 19 million Americans or 9.5% of the population in any given one-year period. It is estimated that depression exacts an economic cost of over $30 billion each year, but the cost of human suffering cannot be measured. As Berman and his family learned, depression not only causes suffering to those who are depressed, but it also causes great difficulty for their family and friends who often do not know how to help.

Since its founding, the FCIF has granted more than $1.5 million to help those in need. Beneficiaries include retailers, installers, retail salespeople, distributor personnel, mill employees and executives. The Foundation ensures that these philanthropic efforts are accomplished with compassion, confidentiality and preservation of dignity for the individuals concerned. Financial help is viewed as an opportunity to say, “We care” to those in our industry.