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We Owe You, Mike Wallace…

From Hulton Archive

Mike Wallace 1918-2012

Mike Wallace died last Saturday, April 7th at the age of 93.

You may remember him from the CBS show “60 Minutes.”

He was well-known and highly respected in his field,

winning over 20 Emmy Awards for his television news

reporting, among many prestigious awards.

But what I, and many of us in the mental health field,

respect him for is being a mental illness stigma-buster.

“…dead inside.”

Mike Wallace is not as well-known for something that

he also spent much of his life doing:  fighting depression.

He had experienced several bouts of mild depression,

which he had always been able to rally from until 1984.

In an article he wrote for Guideposts, he said  “I found

myself suddenly struck, then overwhelmed, by something

—an emptiness, a helplessness, an emotional and physical

collapse—I’d never experienced before.”

He had no energy, he had no appetite, he couldn’t sleep,

and no matter what he did, he felt “dead inside.”

Seeking help…

Mr. Wallace finally felt driven to seek help and was

admitted to a hospital and evaluated by a psychiatrist.

It was the beginning of the end of the nightmare for him,

as he was finally diagnosed with clinical depression and

started on anti-depressant medication, which he took for

the rest of his life, and referred for psychotherapy.

He recovered and was able to work and live again,

managing some recurrences of depression effectively.

He could have stopped there…

He didn’t have to tell anyone what had happened.

The “official story” given to the media was that

he had been hospitalized for exhaustion.

As a late-night guest on Later with Bob Costas, he said

it occurred to him as he was being interviewed about

his job that the kind of people who might be up watching

television late at night were people like him, who

when the depression was severe, suffered terrible

insomnia and he stayed up late channel-surfing.

It dawned on him that it might help give people hope

to know that depression can be treated and that there

is nothing to be ashamed of if you suffer from it.

…but he didn’t!

So Mr. Wallace took a huge risk in revealing that he

suffered from depression, had tried to commit suicide

in 1986, was taking anti-depressant medication and

going to therapy…and advised people to get help if

they were experiencing symptoms of depression.

He had been told by many people he trusted not

to go public with the information because it would

“be bad for his image.”  It could damage his reputation.

The stigma related to mental illness was even worse

for people in the 1990s than it is now.

“Help was out there…”

But he was willing to risk damage to his reputation

to get the word out to millions of viewers that

there was hope for people suffering from depression.

He wrote, “I wanted whoever might be listening and

suffering to understand how low I’d sunk and how I

was getting better every day with treatment.

Help was out there for them too.”

Thank You

I want to say a personal thank you to this man

I have never met for attempting to break

down barriers for people to access mental

health services when they need them.

For helping to take the shame and stigma out

of suffering from a very common, treatable disorder.

And for being willing to do this at great potential

personal and professional cost to himself.

Thank you, Mr. Wallace.

Rest in peace.


For more information about Mike Wallace,

his career, and a special program being broadcast

on “60 Minutes” on April 15, click here.



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