The family of New York City Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio has already begun to emerge as a model American family for the new millennium. There is their multiracial makeup, comprised of de Blasio, who is white, his wife, Chirlane McCray, who is black, and their two biracial kids, Dante and Chiara. Though still rare in politics, mixed-race families are the fastest growing segment of the population.
But the de Blasio family is establishing themselves as role models in another significant way: as one of the millions of American families coping with the impact of depression and substance abuse.
On Christmas Eve, a YouTube video appeared featuring Chiara de Blasio discussing her longtime battle with depression and struggle in young adulthood with substance abuse. While her brother Dante’s fro made him a national sensation, Chiara’s candor could make her a national figure as well.
In the video, the 19-year-old college sophomore credits her parents with being “emotionally committed to trying to find some way to get me better.” She later demonstrated that her parents are not the only policy-minded folks in her family, saying, “We’re not providing enough treatment. We’re not making it an open enough environment for discussion.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 9 percent of Americans admitted to battling depression, but that number does not include data from Kentucky, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and South Dakota, which were not included in data collection. Additionally, reports have found that depression is under-reported, meaning the real number of those suffering is likely in the double digits. According to reports, this problem is even more acute in the black community, where mental illness is still stigmatized, making it less likely that members of the population are willing to admit mental health woes.
These facts make Chiara de Blasio an incredibly important voice in a conversation that has struggled to find enough diverse voices willing to speak out. De Blasio seems well aware of this, reiterating in the video that she “wanted to speak out,” explaining, “We can’t do anything as a society to help these people until we start talking about it.”
She expressed hopes that she can have a small role in changing that and ending the silence so others can experience the breakthrough that she has. “Removing substances from my life has opened so many doors for me,” she said. “I was able to participate in my dad’s campaign, and that was like the greatest thing ever.”
Her parents, for their part, expressed pride in their daughter’s evolution, writing in a public statement, “As parents, our instinct has been to protect our daughter and privately help her through a deeply personal struggle. But not only has Chiara committed to her own health, she is also committed to helping young people everywhere who face similar challenges. With the hope of helping others, our daughter Chiara is courageously sharing her story.”
Keli Goff is The Root’s special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter.