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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


I re-read this story several times because I could not believe my eyes. But there it is again. And again: Deval Patrick facing questions about whether he will step down because of his wife Diane's now very public battle with depression.

And, even more appalling -- facing insinuations by the "enlightened" talk radio crowd that this is all a ruse for sympathy because of political missteps that have eaten into one-third of his popularity ratings.

Perhaps the only thing more appalling is that we remain totally uneducated -- to this very day -- about depression, its causes and treatment.

I tried to pass off the resignation question to that of a young reporter, unsophisticated in the ways of the big media. But then I remembered when I worked as a reporter out in the hinterlands, the big shot visit was too important to pass off with anything less than your best table manners. The White House certainly knows that fact -- why else do they bypass the big feet for regional press?

So we are left with a couple of explanations for this ludicrous question. I call one the Sam Donaldson moment, after the former ABC News White House reporter who used to ask outrageous questions (with helicopter rotors thumping) to elicit visual reactions from Ronald Reagan. Maybe someone wanted Patrick to scowl.

Another answer is far less flattering. Reporters have a knack for smelling blood in the water and going in for the kill. Perhaps someone thought this was a chance to get Patrick -- in his own funk about the bad publicity and harried home life -- to throw in the towel because he was, wait for it, depressed.

Then there's the most likely explanation. Political reporters don't usually have a clue about what happens outside their beat. Health topics are alien (except when it involves policy) and mental health, well, that's someone else's beat.

The ignorance that surround depression is terrifying -- all the more so because of efforts by highly visible people like Kitty Dukakis and Mike Wallace to eliminate the stigma caused by a society that used to lock people up as a way to treat them.

That's why the best writing to date on this topic comes from Herald columnist Margery Eagan.
Here’s what Diane Patrick’s much-maligned $72,000-a-year appointment secretary should do: start scheduling the first lady to crisscross the commonwealth talking about depression, a disease afflicting one in five Americans, including, as many of us apparently do not know, but should, men and women who achieve at the very highest levels at work and at home and within their families.
Eagan also notes Diane and Deval Patrick are not unusual.
So Diane Patrick suffers from depression. So did Alma Powell. Yet Colin somehow managed to win Desert Storm I. So did Tipper Gore, no matter what you think of her husband. So did the great Betty Ford, who admitted to depression, cancer, alcoholism and addiction 30 years ago, when the stigma was even more devastating than when NBC’s Jane Pauley went public with her manic-depression last year.
Maybe we should let Deval Patrick do his job (it could stand some improvement). And we should allow the Patrick family some privacy -- after all she is not Britney Spears. And most of all, maybe we should learn about depression so the stigma will eventually go away.

Let's see some probing questions on that topic.

UPDATE: A belated update (and thanks) for the folks at Blue Mass. Group for soliciting an explanation of the medical definition of depression. Sure wish I had seen it in the media.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's the scandal/week ratio for the new administration?

March 14, 2007 12:18 AM  
Anonymous Rhea said...

Great post! Deval Patrick should be applauded that he has the compassion to curb his work schedule to care for his wife. And Diane Patrick should be given room to recover without media exposure.

March 14, 2007 8:20 AM  
Blogger Gregg said...

I have long felt that our news organizations are more focused on providing entertainment rather than objectively reporting the days events.

From the reporters questions, I think we are all having a tough time distinguishing between the follies of Hollywood and real life. It is easy to write off the antics of Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan and so we are tempted to do the same with people who actually live meaningful lives.

Deval Patrick should be applauded for publicly facing an all too common family affliction which grace and intelligence.

March 14, 2007 8:49 AM  

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