Lawmakers share personal stories in wake of suicides
The suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain last week led some Oklahoma state lawmakers to share their own struggles with depression to underscore the fact that anyone is susceptible.
“There is no profession and no walk of life that is free from depression,” Rep. Monroe Nichols, a Tulsa Democrat, said in an interview Tuesday.
Rep. Cyndi Munson, an Oklahoma City Democrat, said depression crosses all lines of gender, race and class and that she has seen it in friends and colleagues who are, by all appearances, very successful.
“I want people to know what you see on the outside is not necessarily what’s going on inside,” she said.
Munson said she decided to reveal some of her struggles on social media after two Democratic colleagues, Reps. Emily Virgin, of Norman, and Forrest Bennett, of Oklahoma City, wrote of theirs on Twitter late last week.
In one of his posts, Bennett wrote:
“Because a few of the people closest to me know, they check on me. Because I know, I check on myself. I stopped ignoring it and let me tell you, it was the most empowering thing I could’ve done. I’m okay. I’m no less capable because of it. The stigma is the worst part about it.”
In an interview Tuesday, Bennett said that was the first time he had discussed depression in such a public space. He said he had talked to a high school class about it recently and that, afterward, a student with bipolar disorder told him
“you made me feel like I can lead a normal life.”
After the deaths of Spade, a designer, and Bourdain, the star of television documentary series about food and travel, Bennett said he decided to address a larger audience.
The response, he said, has been “really overwhelming and 100 percent positive.”
Besides words of encouragement and support, Bennett has heard from people who were inspired to talk about their own struggles.
Nichols said his decision to address suicide publicly was prompted by a message on Twitter last week that parents who commit suicide genuinely believe their children would be better off without them.
Nichols, who has a young son, posted a reply, “Even at the risk of being judged, I’ll be honest. I’m not one to open up much, but when I saw this tweet and all I thought was ‘I get it, I’ve been there.’ More than once I’ve thought that maybe everyone I know would be better off if I wasn’t around.”
The Tulsa lawmaker said Tuesday he has never contemplated suicide but had experienced the “incredibly tragic kind of perspective” cited in the tweet about parents.
Munson said she was so worn out mentally and physically from consecutive campaigns that she had trouble sometimes early in 2017 getting up in the morning.
“It just felt like a drag,” she said.
In one of her postings on Twitter, Munson wrote, “I have never reached the point to wanting to commit suicide, but I have wanted to crawl out of my own skin. It’s a feeling that I still really cannot articulate.”
All three lawmakers said that, in speaking publicly about their problems, they hoped to reach people that might look up to them.
“If sharing my story helps one person, I’m perfectly fine with it,” Munson said.
They said they’re also hoping the Legislature can work on ways to provide care for the mentally ill.
“It should be the most bipartisan issue there ever was,” Nichols said.
Bennett said, “I just think from a moral perspective it’s important to make sure people have access to quality mental health care.”
Rep. Forrest Bennett
Rep. Cyndi Munson
Rep. Monroe Nichols