Bill Doskoch: Media, BPS*, Film, Minutiae

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Prominent broadcasters and depression

Mike Wallace, who died Sunday, and Shelagh Rogers share something besides career paths. Both suffered from depression.

Saw this story about CBC Radio’s Rogers on Twitter via @Mungobah. It’s from Fort McMurray Today (posted in early March 2012), where I worked25 years ago:

While in a particularly low point after having lost the use of her voice, she was finally diagnosed with unipolar depression, which, unlike bipolar disorder sufferers that experience both extreme highs and lows, is only characterized by varying levels of depression and neutrality.

Rogers says she felt ashamed of her diagnosis, often “self-stigmatizing” when friends and family members failed to support her or understand that depression is not the same as simply feeling sad or unhappy.

Coworkers met her with resentment for taking time off to deal with her mental health, often telling her to “buck up” or get over it.

Admittedly far from being cured of her illness, Rogers says people with depression and other mental health issues need to find ways to cope, adding that medication plays only a part in recovery.

“For me, it’s a combination of medication and having someone to talk to,” adding that finding the proper medication can be a long, frustrating process as anti-depressants are known to cause weight gain and other undesirable side effects.

“There is a close connection between anger you don’t deal with and deepening depression,” said Rogers, explaining that she finds comfort in seeking forgiveness from people she’s wronged and through forgiving people who’ve wronged her.

While sadness is a natural part of the human condition, Rogers says there is a difference between “feeling blue” and depression which doesn’t go away. Rogers encourages people to familiarize themselves with the proper way to deal with depression sufferers.

Mike Wallace, who died at age 93, had a legendary career at CBS News. But at one low point following a lawsuit related to a investigative report he’d done on the Vietnam War, Wallace attempted to commit suicide.

You can hear him talk about it in a 2006 New York Times video interview (skip ahead to just before the 16-minute mark; I saw the interview in a tweet by @AndersonCooper, who wrote, “Mike and Mary Wallace did a lot for those suffering from depression”).

In the interview, Wallace said: “After that attempted suicide, I had 20 of the most interesting and productive years. And the reason that I’m happy to talk about it, in a strange way, is because if people say: ‘Hey, if this guy was in that much trouble that he tried to commit suicide, and look at him – today he’s working, he’s fulfilling his promise, and so that can happen to you too.’  So be careful about trying suicide. This too shall pass.”

From the New York Times obituary:

After more than two years General Westmoreland abandoned his suit, CBS lost some of its reputation, and Mr. Wallace had a nervous breakdown.

He said at the time that he feared “the lawyers for the other side would employ the same techniques against me that I had employed on television.” Already on antidepressants, which gave him tremors, he had a waking nightmare sitting through the trial.

“I could see myself up there on the stand, six feet away from the jury, with my hands shaking, and dying to drink water,” he said in the interview with The Times. He imagined the jury thinking, “Well, that son of a bitch is obviously guilty as hell.”

He attempted suicide. “I was so low that I wanted to exit,” Mr. Wallace said. “And I took a bunch of pills, and they were sleeping pills. And at least they would put me to sleep, and maybe I wouldn’t wake up, and that was fine.”

Later in life he discussed his depression and advocated psychiatric and psycho-pharmaceutical treatment.

Kudos to both Rogers and Wallace for speaking out.

Mon, April 9 2012 » * Big Picture Stuff, Main Page, Media