So many advances in mental health have happened in the last few decades. Not just in the ways we treat the disorders, but the way we, as a society, view them. And a big part of that is when we can see people we respect and or admire opening up about their own issues and exposing them as something that affects us all.
For long time news anchor Jane Pauley the illness hid itself from her until she was being treated with steroids for an unrelated issue.
“It unmasked what doctors described as a genetic vulnerability to a mood disorder, and by that time I was in pretty deep trouble,” she told hosts Gayle King, Anthony Mason and Tony Dokoupil for their “Stop the Stigma” mental health week.
Pauley said that she “changed,” and her moods, though upbeat and cheery, became erratic.
“I got better and felt much better, and then I felt really great and started having plans, and other behaviors that my husband didn’t know who I was,” she said. “When the doctor finally recognized, ‘Oh I know what’s going on here, this is bad,’ he called my husband and said, ‘Your wife is very sick.’ And Gary [Trudeau] was almost relieved, because he knew, ‘Oh maybe someone can help get my wife back now.’ ”
She said she had never in her career experienced stigma before that moment. She knew “when I realized that my doctor was giving me a cover story to tell employers that I was being treated for a thyroid disorder. Which was true, but it wasn’t the whole truth,” she said.
“As a communicator I know something, words have power. And the word stigma is its own stigma,” she said. “… So every time you say stigma, it is a reminder for people like me that I’m fighting two wars. It’s not enough that I have a disorder that’s pretty serious, but I’m also fighting this front. So my goal is that we fight stigma, which is real, but we fight it with sophistication.”