Friday, February 23, 2007

Men and Depression MSNBC

Feb. 26, 2007 issue - For nearly a decade, while serving as an elected official and working as an attorney, Massachusetts state Sen. Bob Antonioni struggled with depression, although he didn't know it. Most days, he attended Senate meetings and appeared on behalf of clients at the courthouse. But privately, he was irritable and short-tempered, ruminating endlessly over his cases and becoming easily frustrated by small things, like deciding which TV show to watch with his girlfriend. After a morning at the state house, he'd be so exhausted by noon that he'd drive home and collapse on the couch, unable to move for the rest of the day.

When his younger brother, who was similarly moody, killed himself in 1999, Antonioni, then 40, decided to seek help. For three years, he clandestinely saw a therapist, paying in cash so there would be no record. He took antidepressants, but had his prescriptions filled at a pharmacy 20 miles away. His depression was his burden, and his secret. He couldn't bear for his image to be any less than what he thought it should be. "I didn't want to sound like I couldn't take care of myself, that I wasn't a man," says Antonioni.

Then, in 2002, his chief of staff discovered him on the floor of his state-house office, unable to stop crying. Antonioni, now 48, decided he had to open up to his friends and family. A few months later, invited to speak at a mental-health vigil, he found the courage to talk publicly about his problem. Soon after, a local reporter wrote about Antonioni's ongoing struggle with the disease. Instead of being greeted with jeers, he was hailed as a hero, and inundated with cards and letters from his constituents. "The response was universally positive. I was astounded."