by William Van Ornum, Ph.D. on
It is a great service to the public when prominent people share their struggles with psychological conditions like depression. This often gives others the courage to seek treatment and acknowledge their need for help. Dick Cavett’s biography in Wikipedia notes:
“Cavett has openly discussed his bouts with clinical depression, an illness that first affected him during his freshman year at Yale. According to an interview published in a 1992 issue of People magazine, Cavett contacted Dr. Nathan Kline in 1975 seeking treatment. Kline prescribed antidepressant medication, which according to Cavett was successful in treating his depression.
“In 1980 Cavett suffered what he characterized as his ‘biggest depressive episode.’ While on board a Concorde prior to takeoff, Cavett broke into a sweat and became agitated. After he was removed from the plane, Cavett was taken to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, where he later underwent electroconvulsive therapy. Regarding this method of treatment Cavett is quoted as saying, ‘In my case, ECT was miraculous. My wife was dubious, but when she came into my room afterward, I sat up and said, “Look who’s back among the living!” It was like a magic wand.’
“He was also the subject of a 1993 video produced by the Depression and Related Affective Disorders Association called A Patient’s Perspective.”
A recent article in Psychology Today offers more of Dick Cavett talking about this important part of his life:
“Cavett is a man of many talents, and though he suffered great bouts of depression, he seems no worse for the wear. Just wiser. Cavett reveals himself to be a serious student of mood disorders, knowing the subtle textures as well as the devastating degrees of its symptoms. He’s been to good doctors and not such good ones. He’s been on good medications and not such good ones too. He’s even had to venture down the road of experimental treatments to help relieve depressive symptoms. More than anything else, Cavett impresses as a man who has been challenged by a chronic illness, but sees himself, and others who live with depression, as more than a diagnostic label.
“Cavett easily moves within and around his personal history with a balanced dose of humor and seriousness. He also knows his research, keeps up with current trends, and does his part to debunk stigma by lecturing and making personal appearances.”
Read Deborah Serani’s excellent interview in Psychology Today (April 21, 2011) here.