Mike Wallace, who passed away over the weekend at age 93, was known for being a tough CBS 60 Minutes news correspondent.
But he also held onto a secret that is shared by many people in show business and the media — he had suffered from clinical depression.
It started in 1984, when a target of one of his investigative reports — U.S. Army General William C. Westmoreland — sued Wallace for libel for a news story on the Vietnam War. Calling into question his journalistic integrity, the lawsuit quickly drove Wallace into a depressive spiral.
After revealing his feelings to his primary care physician, the doctor suggested Wallace just put his depression aside, “You’re a tough guy. You’ll get through it.”
“Forget the word ‘depression’ because that’ll be bad for your image,” the doctor reportedly told Wallace.
Yet Wallace didn’t just “get through it” without help.
The public humiliation and questions of integrity made him feel “dead inside,” Wallace wrote in January 2002. He couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep and took sleeping pills in an attempt to get some shuteye.
But Wallace wasn’t comforted by the words of his doctor, and continued to go downhill with his depressive feelings. Wallace described his rock bottom point, when he attempted suicide. “I have to get out of here,” he recalled thinking.
“So I took a bunch of sleeping pills, wrote a note and ate them, and, as a result, I fell asleep,” he said.
Mary found him unconscious in bed around 3 a.m. Doctors were able to pump his stomach and revive the journalist before he underwent psychological treatment.
He revealed to his “60 Minutes” colleagues that he had eventually become so despondent that he tried to commit suicide, but it was a secret his colleagues kept under wraps until Wallace himself spoke about his depression, first in 2002, and then again in 2009.
In an interview with the PBS program “Healthy Minds” in 2009, he recounted the evening he decided to end his life.
Wallace found relief from his clinical depression via a combination of psychotherapy and antidepressants — a combination that is the gold standard for treatment of depression.
While he continued to suffer off-and-on depressive episodes throughout the rest of his life, he attributed the treatments he received to helping him cope with his depression.
About 17 million Americans will suffer from depression at some point in their lives and according to the World Health Organization. Symptoms of depression include feeling sad, unable to enjoy things in life, significant changes in sleep and appetite, and lethargy.
Wallace acknowledged that the stigma of mental illness left many people, including himself, undiagnosed and untreated. While awareness and advocacy has curbed some of that taboo, there is still work to be done to remedy such perception of mental illness.
Experts say any time a public figure like Wallace opens up a discussion about mental illness, it is easier for others who may be suffering in silence to come forward and get treatment.
Source: News wire reports